"Brandt. It's Ethan. I need you to meet me at the hospital."
Brandt took a sharp intake of breath at his teammate's words. "What is it?"
"It's Benji." Ethan didn't have to say another word, as Brandt had already hung up the phone and was grabbing his jacket as he bolted for the front door. He had no idea what had happened to Benji for him to wind up in the hospital, but from the way Ethan spoke on the phone, his unsettling stomach knew it wasn't good. What worried him more was the fact that they were not on a mission at that moment. As far as he was aware, Benji was spending his break at home, resting up. What could have happened to him while he was safe at home?
The analyst pulled up into the hospital car park and ran inside, seeing Ethan and Jane standing in the foyer. He saw that the former's clothes were coated in red; he tried to avert his gaze from them.
"What happened?" he asked, his eyes flicking between his two friends.
"Benji was shot." Ethan spoke with a wavering voice, his eyes blinking rapidly.
"Shot? But how? Who did it?" Brandt had so many questions that needed answering yet he wasn't sure if he wanted to know the answers.
"His neighbour called me. She heard a loud bang and when she went to check on him, she found him just..." Ethan trailed off, images returning that he did not wish to see. Brandt saw that his colleague didn't want to continue so he nodded and quickly spoke again.
"Do we have any idea who did it?"
Ethan shook his head. "When I got to the apartment, there was no signs of a break in. His safe was untouched and his wallet was in his jacket pocket. Whoever it was, they didn't wanna rob him." He paused, taking a deep, shaky breath. "It almost seems like-"
"A personal attack." Jane spoke up for the first time since Brandt arrived and this made the analyst sick to the stomach.
"So where is he now?"
"Still in surgery. Doctor said they don't know if he's gonna..." Ethan took a moment to recompose himself and, assuming that Brandt knew what he was getting at, moved on. "They said they'd keep us updated." The analyst nodded and silence fell over them. None of them had any clue where to start with this. They knew of no one who would have a grudge against Benji. He was one of the nicest people they knew. Why would someone want to harm him? Could it be someone with something against one of them? Had someone gone out of their way to hurt Benji as a way of getting back at Ethan or Brandt or Jane? But even then, the attacker could have chosen any of the others; why Benji? Was he easiest to get access to? Brandt rubbed his hands over his eyes and sat down in a nearby chair.
And now we wait.
Seconds turned into minutes. Minutes turned into hours. The trio had lost track of how long they had been sitting there for as they awaited news. A few times, they had watched doctors rush through the theatre doors, shouting medical terms that the agents didn't quite understand, however they knew it wasn't good. They had tried to ask what was going on but no one would stop to tell them. Sure, if they had been told that something bad had happened they would have felt sick, but the fact that they had no idea what was happening made them feel worse.
Brandt had glanced at Ethan a few times during their wait, noting the expression on his face. It was obvious that he was worried about Benji – the analyst couldn't even begin to imagine what Ethan would have seen when he entered their friend's apartment. Yet, as Brandt watched the older man's face, there seemed to be something else there; something else that was playing on his mind. He wanted to ask Ethan what else was bothering him but decided that it could wait until they had received news on Benji.
Ethan stared at the wall opposite him, trying to will away the image of Benji's limp body lying in a pool of his own blood. Despite everything having seemed like a blur, now as they adrenaline wore off, he remembered everything.
"Hello, is that…" the voice paused. "Mr Hunt?"
"Yes…" Ethan replied, noting the panic in the female's voice. She sounded in her fifties or sixties. "Who is this?"
"M-my name is Irene. I live next to Benjamin Dunn."
"Oh?" Ethan was curious as to why Benji's neighbour was calling him. "How can I help you, Irene?"
"Uh… you need to come over right now, please. It's Benjamin."
Ethan's heart felt like it stopped briefly as he sat bolt upright in his chair. "What is it? Is he ok?"
"I-I don't know…" Irene's voice wavered and she sounded close to tears. "There's just so much blood."
"Shit…" Ethan whispered, standing quickly. "Ok, I'm coming right over. Can you stay with him?"
"Ok, can you see where the blood is coming from?"
"Um." There was a pause as she searched. "Yes, it's near his waist."
"Alright, I need you to get as many towels as you can and put pressure on it. Have you called an ambulance?"
"Not yet." Ethan's eyes widened at this, wondering why that hadn't been the first thing she had done. "Benjamin told me when he first moved in, if there was ever an emergency, I should call you before anyone else."
Ethan understood his reasoning for this. If anyone were to find out who he was, then it could mean serious trouble for IMF and even more so for Benji. "Ok, good. Thank you Irene. Call one now and I'll be right there."
Ethan remembered grabbing his jacket before practically sprinting out of his front door and down the driveway. The trip to Benji's apartment seemed to take several times longer than the usual ten minute trip, as every second set of traffic lights was against him. When he finally had reached Benji's apartment block, he ran just as fast to reach his friend.
Jogging along the corridor of the fourth floor, Ethan felt ill, hoping that it was just some kind of sick joke. His heart pounded painfully against his ribs, which were still bruised from their last mission, and his breathing was overly rapid. Swallowing as he reached the open door, he rushed inside.
"In here, Mr Hunt!" He followed her voice to the bedroom and was quickly greeted by a sickening sight. Benji lay half on, half off his bed, sprawled on his back with his legs hanging over the edge. One arm was by his side while the other was bent up next to his head. As Irene had described on the phone, the amount of blood was horrifying. It had formed a large red patch on the white sheets underneath his body and there was a small pile of soaked through towels nearby. Irene was kneeling next to him pressing the newest towel into his side as Ethan entered the room. Rushing to the bed, he climbed on and placed a hand to Benji's neck. He felt a very weak pulse, causing his heart to pound more in his ears.
"Irene, tell me what happened."
"I, uh, well I was just watching TV. I heard this horribly loud bang come from next-door. At first I thought he'd just dropped something, but then I could hear him shouting." Ethan placed his hands on the towel as a signal that she could let go. Her hands shook as she lifted them from the wound.
"What happened next?"
"I went out into the hallway and knocked on his door to see if he was ok. But then I heard him crying out for help. I grabbed his spare key from my cupboard and came inside. That's when I found him…"
"Was he conscious when you found him?"
Irene nodded. "He passed out only moments before I called you."
Ethan tried his best to force a weak, reassuring smile. "You did great Irene. Are the paramedics on thei-" He was cut off by the sound of sirens getting closer and let out a sigh of relief. Looking down, he lifted Benji's upper body into his lap, keeping the pressure on the wound. "Stay with us Benj. Help's coming." He glanced up to Irene again to see her holding something out to him. "What's that?"
"It was next to Benjamin when I arrived." She handed him the piece of blood splattered paper. As he took it, the door burst open and two paramedics entered, pushing Ethan and Irene aside. Once they had Benji on the stretcher, Ethan glanced down at the paper.
He knew what they had to do.
It was 2am before any news came.
The team had been moved into the family room and when they saw a doctor entering, they stood up immediately. The grave expression on his face, however, made their legs want to give out.
"Doc?" Brandt spoke, willing the doctor to give them the news they may not want to hear.
"The surgery was very touch and go. The bullet was a through-and-through, hitting his kidney. Fortunately we could tend to the damage there. He also lost a lot of blood so we had to give him a transfusion."
"Is he ok?" Jane asked, unconsciously gripping the back of Ethan's jacket.
The doctor gave a sigh. "He is alive, but I'm afraid he has fallen into a coma." Never before had any agent felt such a mixture of emotions. The first three words had brought an overwhelming sense of relief, yet the latter part of the doctor's sentence caused their hearts to be crushed. None of them could remember words ever giving them so much heartache. "I know that this is a lot to take in and please know that we are going to try our hardest to make sure he pulls through, but right now, you need to remember that Benjamin is exceptionally lucky to be alive. I don't wish to cause you more shock when I say this, but Mr Dunn died twice on the operating table. Despite his current situation, he is fortunate. We don't know how things will go from here on, however considering the circumstances, I'm sorry to advise you not to get your hopes up."
The doctor's words hit them like a truck.
They had lost Benji twice. The reality of how close they had come to losing him permanently began to set in and Jane had to sit back down. Now, they still had a chance of him dying. They didn't want to imagine their lives without him; the team wouldn't be the same. Jane looked down at her hands and had to jam them between her knees to stop them shaking. No matter what, she wanted to see whoever did this to Benji pay. She remembered what Ethan had told her after she killed Moreau.
"We can't get them back."
Revenge on Benji's shooter would not make their friend recover faster, nor would it undo what had happened. But whoever they were, they damn well deserved it.
"Doctor, can we have a few moments alone, please?" Ethan's voice almost made Jane jump as it broke the silence.
"Of course." They watched the doctor leave and once the door was shut, Ethan turned to his remaining teammates.
"Please tell me we're gonna find this son of a bitch." Brandt gave voice to Jane's thoughts and both agents watched their leader pull a piece of paper from his pocket. The sight of bloodied fingerprints on it made them sick, but they waited for Ethan to speak.
"This was found next to Benji after he was shot. I think it might be our first lead on who did this." Handing it to Brandt, he and Jane read the scrawled handwriting.
"This one is for you Andrew.
What you took from me, I now take from you."
Jane looked up. "Andrew?"
"Andrew Dunn. Benji's father." Ethan explained. "Now let's go talk to him and find out who would want revenge on him."