“I wish I knew what was going on in there,” Alex said miserably. Webb glanced up at her from where he sat with a hand-held two-way radio.

“Tony will let us know the moment he finds anything. Till then, we just gotta sit tight.”

Deakins focused a hard look on Webb.

“You saw us coming, but you still triggered the detonation sequence.”

Webb reddened visibly.

“We thought you were just bringing another injunction. You’ve gotta understand, this has already been delayed three times. It was costing us a shit load of money. We… I just didn’t want it to be delayed again. If we’d know there was someone inside…”

“Why the hell didn’t you do one last check?” Carolyn demanded to know. “Anyone could have gotten in there between Friday afternoon, and now. There could have been kids in there, for God’s sake!”

“We thought the place was locked up tight!” Webb argued. He paused, taking in the angry looks from the captain and his detectives. “I know,” he said finally, miserably. “We fucked up, big time.”

“Yes,” Deakins agreed tightly. “You did.”

Any further arguments were abruptly halted, though, when a sharp crackling sound erupted from Webb’s radio. Eyeing Deakins nervously, Webb spoke into it quickly.

“Russ, here.”

Russ, it’s Tony. Call 911 and get them to send paramedics and a couple of ambulances. We found them and it looks like they’re still alive. Then, grab Paul and Evan, and get your asses down here fast. We need the extra manpower.

Webb answered in the affirmative, and then looked around to see Deakins had his own radio out.

“Find the men you need,” Deakins told him. “I’ll call for the ambulances.”

Webb nodded and hurried off to do so, Deakins’ words ringing in his ears as he went.

“This is Captain James Deakins, Major Case Squad. We need two ambulances at the Collins Street Apartment Block in the Bronx. Officers down. I repeat, officers down…”

Webb broke into a run.

“Easy, boss,” one of the men said as Shore tried to edge closer to the trapped men, anxious to see whether they were, indeed, still alive.

“I’m fine,” Shore growled. “They’re not. We’ve got to get them out.”

He was close enough to make out the face of one man, and the top of the head of the other. They were pinned beneath what looked to Shore like the metal frame of a bed, and between that and the chunk of concrete were the buckled bars of the cage. It was a flimsy barrier, but so far it seemed to be holding, preventing the men from being crushed completely.

“Mike,” Shore said as loudly as he dared. “Bobby. Can either of you hear me? C’mon guys, show me a sign of life here.”

There was no conscious response, but as he listened he could hear the sound of shallow, rasping breaths from at least one of the men.

“One of them is breathing, at least,” he muttered as he pushed back and got to his feet again. “Okay, guys, listen carefully. We don’t have time to do this by the book. I want to get them out as fast as possible. Russ, are you down here?”

“Over here, Tony,” Webb said. He made his way around to stand beside Shore. “I don’t mean to put anymore pressure on us, but I overheard that cop out there when he called for the ambulances. These two guys are both cops.”

Shore grimaced.

“Well… that’s not an issue right now. Okay, here’s what we’re going to do. All of you move around and get as good a grip on this slab of concrete as you can. When I give the word, I want you boys to lift it up as much as you can. Russ and I are going to pull them out.”

“What if they have spinal injuries?” someone asked. “That could do permanent damage, pulling them out like that.”

“We don’t have time to get the right equipment to do this properly,” Shore insisted. As if to corroborate his words, a minor tremor swept through the building, showering the men with dust.

“This place could go any time,” Webb agreed. “We’ve gotta do this right now.”

Shore crouched down and edged forward until he was within arm’s reach of the two men. Webb did the same, exchanging grim looks with his friend and boss.

“Everyone ready?” Shore asked, and there was a murmur of assent through the group. “Okay, on the count of three. Three, two, one, lift!”

Strained grunts filled the air as the men put their strength into lifting the slab of concrete. For several seconds, nothing happened. Then, abruptly, the slab moved and finally lifted up.

“Now!” Shore gasped. He grabbed Mike’s wrists and pulled hard. There was a brief moment of resistance, and then Mike’s body slid forward, coming free from where he’d been pinned to the floor.

Webb grabbed at Bobby’s wrists at the same time, grunting as he strained to pull Bobby free. Nothing happened.

“He’s stuck, I can’t pull him out,” Webb gasped. With Mike free, Shore scrambled back and grabbed one of Bobby’s wrists, directing Webb to hold the other.

“Now, pull!” Shore ordered, and the two of them pulled fiercely.

“Hurry,” someone begged through clenched teeth. “We can’t hold this thing forever.”

Shore grunted in reply as he set his feet and pulled back as hard as he could. A moment later, there was a dull cracking sound from somewhere beneath the slab, and Bobby’s body finally slid free. It came not a moment too soon as a few of the men finally lost their grip on the heavy slab and it fell with a resounding crunch.

“Jesus, I think we broke his arm,” Webb moaned. Shore brushed the sweat from his eyes.

“Better alive with a broken arm than a dead crushed body. Okay, let’s get them the hell outta here.”

Alex watched out of the corner of her eye as first one ambulance and then another pulled up and two teams of paramedics climbed out. Deakins went to speak to them, and fill them in on what they knew about the situation, leaving her and Carolyn together to watch and wait.

“I hate this,” she said finally, softly. “I’ve got half a mind to go in there.”

Carolyn glanced sideways at her.

“I know. But we have to wait, Alex. There’s nothing more we can do. Shore was right. We’d only cause more difficulties than it was worth. Try and be patient.”

“I am just so damn scared,” Alex whispered as she struggled to contain a fresh flood of tears. “All the times that I’ve nearly lost him, and it’s never felt as real as this.”

“I know,” Carolyn murmured, hugging Alex to her warmly. “I’m scared too, Alex.”

“God, if he lives, I’m going to kill him!”

Carolyn laughed softly.

“I know. I just want Mike to be okay, so I can smack him on the head for scaring us so bad. The dumb ox…”

Shuddering a little, Alex took a moment to scan the crowd.

“You think he’s here watching?”

“Who? The guy who put them in there, you mean?”

“Yes. Do you think he’s here somewhere, watching?”

“It wouldn’t surprise me. Whoever it was, they were sadistic enough to put Bobby and Mike down there, knowing what would eventually happen. They’d want to see the end result. I’ll bet they’re royally pissed off right about now.”

Alex sighed softly.

“I wish we had a description. I’d love to take out my frustration on someone right about now.”

Carolyn rubbed her back comfortingly.

“Easy, Attila. Save it for later… like when Bobby is fit again, and can take a good pounding from you.”

“One thing’s for sure,” Alex said bitterly.

“What’s that?”

“I’m never letting him out of my sight again.”

“Oh, I don’t know about that,” Carolyn murmured. “However, if either one of them ever mentions going to a bar outside a one mile radius from One Police Plaza, I’ll happily shoot both ofthem in the leg to stop them going.”

Alex smiled faintly, but before she had a chance to respond, she spotted movement in the entrance to the apartment block.

“Something’s happening,” she said, pulling away from Carolyn and standing up. Carolyn looked as well, and sure enough men were emerging from the entrance way, and between them they were carefully carrying on two emergency backboards…

“They’ve got them,” Alex exclaimed, and bolted across the grass, with Carolyn close behind.

“Okay, that’s good, guys,” one of the waiting paramedics said. “Just set them down here… that’s it.”

Bobby and Mike had no sooner been laid down gently on the grass when Alex and Carolyn got there.

“Oh god,” Carolyn whispered, looking from Bobby to Mike in horror. “Look at them…”

To say that Bobby and Mike were a mess would have been a gross understatement. Both men looked more dead than alive, lying unconscious and completely unresponsive on the ground. Both were deathly white, and icy cold to the touch, and the blood the rimmed Mike’s mouth left him with a hideous, ghoulish look.

“They were trapped under a slab of concrete,” Shore was explaining to the paramedics as they began working on the two detectives. “We had to just pull them out, so we don’t know whether that might have done more damage. That guy there, I think we might have broken his arm, and maybe dislocated his shoulder pulling him free.”

“Okay, guys, thanks,” the lead paramedic said. “We’ve got it now.”

Alex didn’t hesitate any longer, darting forward and dropping to her knees on the grass beside Bobby. He looked so pale and lifeless that it sent chills through her body. She reached out, touching her fingertips to his pale face, tears overflowing down her cheeks when he didn’t respond to her touch.

“Please, Detective,” one medic pleaded, “let us do our job? Move out of the way.”

“C’mon, Alex,” Deakins murmured, gently taking her by the shoulders and urging her to her feet and drawing her back so the paramedics could work. Carolyn joined them, watching her partner being worked on with a fear-filled gaze.

Silence reigned, no words being spoken but those by the paramedics as they worked to stabilise the two men for the trip to the nearest hospital.

“Okay,” one paramedic said firmly, leaning back away from Bobby. “Let’s get him on board.”

“Captain…?” Alex asked, and he looked questioningly at the paramedics.

“Do you mind Detective Eames going along? Detective Goren is her partner.”

“No, she can come, as long as she stays out of our way.”

Alex nodded gratefully and followed them to the nearest ambulance. A minute later, it pulled away, lights flashing and sirens blaring as it rushed its patient to hospital.

Deakins watched until it was out of sight before returning his attention to the paramedics who were working on Mike. It was a chilling sight, to see the tough detective lying so still, looking so lifeless. Beside him, Carolyn stood stiffly, barely breathing, as she watched the medics work desperately on her partner.

“Punctured lung…” one of them said tensely. “Damn it, he’s drowning in his own blood…”

“We’ve got to get him to hospital…”

“If we don’t stabilise him, we’re gonna lose him on the way there.”

“It’s two minutes from here to St Barnabas. If he bottoms out on the way there, we should still be able to get him to the ER in time to bring him back.”

A moment later, all speculation on the likelihood of Mike making it to the hospital was put on hold as his body convulsed once, violently, and then fell limp against the ground.

“He’s not breathing,” one of the medics announced in a loud, tense voice. “If we can’t clear his throat right now and get him breathing again, we’re going to lose him.”

Deakins and Carolyn watched in numb silence as the medics rolled Mike over onto his side, and one of the medics cleared his mouth of the build up of blood and then slid a tube into his mouth and down his throat. Another medic inserted a syringe into the end of the tubing and used it to pump out any excess blood, and then a ventilator was fitted carefully to the end and the third medic began to manually pump air back into Mike’s body.

“Okay, pulse is weak, but it’s still there,” the first medic said finally. “Time to move him.”

“I want to go with him,” Carolyn spoke up, barely able to keep her voice from shaking. The first medic nodded his consent.

“Okay, but you’ll have to ride up front. We’re going to need all the room we’ve got to keep working on him.”

“You’re taking him to St Barnabas?” Deakins asked as they lifted Mike onto a waiting gurney and carefully strapped him down. “Is that where the other ambulance was headed?”

“St Barnabas is the closest hospital with a trauma centre that’s equipped to deal with injuries on this scale,” the first paramedic explained. “We’ll take your detectives there for initial treatment, and then they’ll probably be transferred to an inner city hospital… probably Mount Sinai, for more detailed treatment. But yeah, right now we want to get them treatment as fast as possible, and St Barnabas is the closest.”

Carolyn looked back at Deakins before climbing into the ambulance.

“Here, Captain, you might need these. I took them off Alex when we got here.”

Deakins nodded, gratefully accepting the keys to the SUV from Carolyn.

“Go on,” he told her. “Go with your partner, Barek. I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

Carolyn climbed into the ambulance without further hesitation and, moments later, it was gone, on its emergency run to St Barnabas Hospital.

“Excuse me, Captain, was it?”

Deakins looked around to find himself faced with a very dirty-faced engineer.

“Mr Shore, wasn’t it?” Deakins asked, and Shore nodded.

“That’s right. Tony Shore. Look, I’m willing to take full responsibility for this. We should have rechecked the building today. There was no excuse for not doing that.”

A faint sigh escaped Deakins.

“In all honesty, Mr Shore, I can’t bring myself to be angry with you. You went in there without hesitation and you brought my detectives out, alive. Whether they’ll survive, I don’t know, but thanks to you they at least came out of that building alive. I appreciate that more than I can really express at the moment. I have no intention of pressing any charges against you.”

Shore nodded his gratitude.

“Thankyou. Uh… I know I’m probably pushing it, but could I ask a favour?”

Deakins raised an eyebrow quizzically.

“Such as?”

Shore pulled a card from his shirt pocket and handed it to Deakins.

“My contact number is on that. I’d really like to know how those boys fare, if it’s okay.”

With a small smile, Deakins slipped the car into his inner jacket pocket.

“I’ll let you know as soon as I know. Thankyou, Mr Shore. I appreciate everything you’ve done.”

Shore watched as Deakins turned and walked away, shaking his head in amazement.

“What are you thinking, Boss?” Webb asked softly as he came to stand beside Shore.

“I’m thinking that those boys are damned lucky if that’s their superior officer. My brother’s a cop, and he said most of the suits wouldn’t go two steps out of their way for their officers. That guy? He’s an exception. Damn, I hope those guys will be okay.”

“C’mon, Tony,” Webb said quietly. “We got a demolition to finish.”

Shore grimaced.

“Yeah,” he muttered and, with a last look at Deakins’ retreating figure, headed back to finish his job.

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