Episode 55: Backburner

Lana, how much is enough?  Kostamo asks her.  She just looks at him.  We just concluded the deal of a lifetime.  The proceeds are distributed.  Everyone should be happy, right?  But the guys are miserable.  They keep asking me, what’s next?  Where do we go from here?  And I tell them that I’m going to dig water wells in sub Saharan Africa.  Guess how that went over?  They all want in, Lana says grinning at him.  He puts his head in his hands.  Lana, nobody wants to step up to run the pipeline.  And if the music stops, bodies will start to fall.  Together we are a lethal unit, but we are each vulnerable apart.  And the edge gets dull if it’s not constantly touched up.

He sighs.  I don’t want to do this anymore.  But I don’t know see how to get out without leaving my guys exposed.  And if I stay in, they’ll stay in.  So I’m circling the drain, going faster and faster as the tunnel with no exit gets closer and closer.

Lana sips her coffee.  The Frog and the Scorpion.  You remember the fable?  He nods.  The frog gives the scorpion a ride across the river, and the scorpion stings it halfway across, killing them both.  You’re not a frog, Lana tells him.  You’re a turtle.  And you’ve been giving the scorpion rides back and forth across the river for a long time now.  Please quit while you’re ahead.  And don’t worry, Mortimer…there is no shortage of frogs.  Kostamo laughs and grins at Lana.  I have to let the Syndicate know.  They will want to see a succession plan in place.  Lana shakes her head no.  Let them start from scratch.  “What one man can do, another can do – better”.

Kostamo smirks, and then sips his coffee.  How’s things with…

Suddenly there’s a scream from the entrance, and gunfire erupts.


Bettina gets a text from her father.  Call me ASAP.  She washes her hands in the kitchen sink, and calls him.  Hi, daddy.  Whew, he sighs.  So glad to hear your voice.  There was a mass shooting over at that coffee house you like in Market Garden.  Daddy, I’ll call you right back.  Lana was meeting someone there.  She quickly calls Lana, but the phone just rings through.  She dials it again and again.  Then she calls her dad back and just sobs into the phone.  Stay there, he tells her.

Mayor’s News Conference

Here’s what we know, it was a bloodbath.  Six Chechen nationals wearing bulletproof vests and sporting AK47s stormed the coffee shop.  Two armed patrons engaged them and neutralized them.  Then a vehicle driven by a Chechen woman drove into the coffee shop, and she blew herself up after being shot numerous times.

Is it true that Lana Radley was there?  A reporter shouts.  We’re not releasing the names of those involved at this time.

St. Catherine’s

The press swarm Bettina, Simon, Jax, and Tom as they walk into the lobby, and security escorts them to a private waiting room.  Jon is already there.  Sitting with his head down.  Bettina goes over and sits next to him and takes his hand and starts rubbing it.  He reaches over with his free hand and covers hers and pats it twice and then lets go and looks up at the others.  Lana and Kostamo took them all out.  Jon takes a deep breath.  Neither of them got shot; it was the suicide vest by the woman driving the car.  Lana must have hit her but wasn’t able to finish her off; they found the slide of her Glock locked back empty.  He looks back down at the floor, and Bettina takes his hand again in hers.

Lana’s in surgery.  They’re cleaning out the shrapnel in her eyes.  Her life isn’t in danger, but…and Jon breaks down sobbing.

The Hacienda

Tia comes into the office, and just sits down and stares at the desk.  What’s wrong, Tia?  There was a shooting in New Orleans, Raul.  He just looks at her.  The Chechen tried to take out Kostamo.  Six men wearing bulletproof vests and armed with assault rifles, coming at him from two directions, the advantage of surprise, and yet he still walks away.  Tia shakes her head.  He is a warrior, Raul notes, nodding his approval.  Lana wasn’t so lucky.  Raul stares at her.  They were having coffee together.  She’s in the hospital.  Tia looks at the floor.  What?  Raul asks her.  She took shrapnel to the eyes from the car exploding.  She’s blind, Raul.


Jax, Bettina, and Simon go to Kostamo’s hospital room.  They see Tim standing outside the door.  He motions for them to stop with both hands.  He’s resting, Tim tells them in a hushed tone.  Did he tell you anything?  Simon asks.  Just that Lana was unbelievable.   That she had two men down before he got into the fight.  How’s he doing?  Jax asks.  He’s got a concussion along with minor cuts and bruises.  I need to have a word with you alone, Tim tells Jax.  Simon and Bettina turn around and walk back to Lana’s room.  Tim looks at Jax.  Here’s the score.  It’s going to get crowded in this hospital real quick.  I don’t want any confrontations in front of Lana and her family.  Walk away if that’s what it takes.  Jax nods.  Kostamo wants to talk to you; go on in.

Jax enters the room, which is dark, the shades drawn.  He sees Kostamo lying on the bed.  His face and arms lacerated.  Jax, I need you to do something for Lana.  Sure.  Anything.  Take Simon and go and sit on Rolf’s house.  Let him know what happened.  Don’t let him do anything crazy until he talks to me first.  Will you do that for me?  Jax nods and turns to leave.  One more thing.  Kostamo says as Jax is almost out the door.  Jax stops and turns around.  I like the beard, Kostamo says, and gives him his Cheshire cat grin.

Oh, Jaxton!  Lana’s mother cries and goes over to embrace him when he cames back into the waiting room.  What have they done to my little girl?  She sobs as Jax holds her.  It’ll be alright.  She’ll make it through this.  Jax whispers in her ear.  She saved a lot of lives.  She trained for this day, to be ready.  Her friend said she was unbelievable. He looks over her shoulder and sees Tom talking with Lana’s father.  She finally lets go of him.  Have you heard if she’s out of surgery yet?  She shakes her head and breaks down into tears again.  Let’s sit down, Jax tells her, and leads her to chair and sits next to her and holds her hand with his left hand.  Bettina and Simon come back into the waiting room, twenty minutes later.  She’s stable and is being moved to a recovery room. Is she awake?  Bettina shakes her head no.  She’s resting.

Jax breaks the silence.  I’m going to go sit on Rolf’s house and let him know.  Jon, Simon, want to come with?  Simon nods.  Jon shakes his head no.  I’ll get ahold of Mike.  Bettina’s phone rings, and she looks at it, and then walks off into a corner of the waiting room.  She just got out of surgery, and they’re transferring her to a recovery room.  <pause>  I agree, sir.  I’ll call you when she’s awake.  Bye now.  Bettina hangs up and walks over to Lana’s mother.  Senator Johns – he’s been calling me for updates every hour.  He’s decided to suspend his campaign.  No one says anything.

Well, I’m off to sit on Rolf’s house, Jax tells Bettina.  She nods, and gestures for Simon to go with him.  Don’t have a car, he says.  Daddy.  Tom hands the keys to Simon.  Jon comes back into the room.  Get ahold of Mike?  Jax asks.  Yeah.  He wants you to call him, Jon replies. Jax nods.  Toni wants you to call her too.  What about Sam?  Simon asks.


Gather around.  Arnold tells the actors on set.  Chechen terrorists attacked a coffee house in New Orleans this morning.  Lana Radley was there.  Score: seven dead terrorists.  One of the actors laughs nervously.  She’s in the hospital; that’s all we know.  Sam, go take care of your friend.  We’re suspending production.  Keep me in the loop.


Deluca watches Simon and Jax walk out of the hospital and get mobbed by the press.  Is Lana Radley going to be okay?  Simon doesn’t answer.  She’s out of surgery and is now resting, Jax announces.  What happened?  Just let the police do their job, Simon replies.  I can tell you what the Chechens want to happen.  They want us to go over there, and help with their recruiting, all the while we build them new roads and sewers and schools, and secure them from a Russian boot up their ass.  Not going to play out that way.  The days of nation building are over.  That’s all I’ve got to say.


When we get to Tom’s let’s get something to eat and take a nap, Simon says as he gets in the driver’s seat.  It’ll be awhile before Rolf gets up.  We’re not doing any good at the hospital.  An hour later, Jax goes out in the back and sits at the pool with his phone and calls Toni.  Hey, Jax.  Have you talked to Bettina?  Yes.  She’ll let me know when Lana wakes up.  She said you visited Kostamo.  He’s banged up a little, but he’ll probably be out of there tomorrow.  Did you talk to him?  Not really; but Lana’s friend Tim told me that she took out two of them before he got into the fight.  Jax, he’ll marry her if she’ll have him.  He can get in line, Jax deadpans.  Toni chuckles drily.   What do you think I should do, Jax?   I’m not saying it will be easy, but I think you should visit him.  It meant a lot to me when Lana came by after I woke up.

I’ll think about it, but I don’t want to mess things up with Mike.  Speaking of, I’ve got to call him next. See you later at the hospital then, she tells him and disconnects.

Hey, Jax.  Mike – I just got off the phone with Toni.  I hope I didn’t overstep here, but I suggested that she go visit Kostamo while he’s still in the hospital.  She said that she’ll think about it, but that she doesn’t want to mess things up with you.  You two really need to talk.  Think I should fly back?  Yes.  <Silence>

I’m going to hold off for awhile.  Why?  I don’t want to be there when she hears the news that she’s blind, Mike replies.  Jax is silent.  I’ll show up at the award ceremony and stand beside her then.  What do you want me to tell Toni?  Take her ring shopping.  Tell her you’re picking out a ring for Lana.  I don’t like it, Jax says.  Her driving your truck around town is better than any engagement ring.  Now what do you want me to tell her?  Tell her that I need to get this fight out of my system before I settle down.  And what you said about her driving my Dodge being like an engagement ring.  I’ll take care of it, Jax promises.

What are you going to do about Lana?  I’m going to marry her.  I can see you doing just that, brother.  Mike comments.  Keep me posted.  Later.


Simon and Jax pull up to Rolf’s drive as the sun sets over the horizon.  Simon gets out and moves the three asphalt pails, and then drives up to the circle.  They get out and walk up to the door, and Rolf opens it.  He grins at Jax, but then his grin slowly vanishes as Jax stares at him.  Rolf closes his eyes.  Simon pats him on the shoulder a couple times.  Lana’s tough; she’ll make a go of it.  You both need to leave.  Rolf says, with his eyes still closed.  Not happening, Jax says.  Kostamo told me to tell you to talk to him first before you do anything crazy.  Let’s go talk to Kostamo then, Rolf says.

As they drive Highway 90, Rolf asks them to roll down their windows.  I need some fresh air.  He suddenly climbs out his window and somehow gets up on the roof of the moving vehicle, and grips the door sills of each of the open windows.

Simon takes Tom’s driving glasses and taps Rolf’s hand with them twice.  Rolf takes them and puts them on.  Speed up, Simon tells Jax.  And Jax guns it, and starts passing vehicles.  Simon finds some Nickelback on his phone, and hooks it up to the stereo, and starts blasting “Never Again’’.  When they hit stop and go traffic, Rolf climbs back in the backseat, and hands Simon back the sunglasses.  I miss the sea, Rolf says, apropos of nothing.  They drive the rest of the way in silence.

We’re here.  Simon texts Bettina.  Lana still resting?  Yes.  We’re going to see Kostamo then.  Fine.  Don’t let Rolf leave without seeing Lana’s parents.

When they get to the hospital, they walk through the press, and take the elevator to Kostamo’s floor.  Two different men are outside the door.  He’s expecting you, go right on in, the other man tells Rolf.

Kostamo looks at Rolf and Jax and Simon and doesn’t say anything.  Are you comfortable?  Can I get you anything?  Rolf asks.  It was reflex memory.  Kostamo tells Rolf, ignoring his questions.  When I saw Lana point in again, I just dropped.  My body knew what was coming before my mind was able to process it; I’ve been in too many battles.  Lana didn’t flinch, Rolf says.  Kostamo closes his eyes and drops his head on his chest in shame.  You did awesome, brother, Simon tells Kostamo.  No one could have done better.

Kostamo looks up at Rolf.  It was just so sudden and unexpected.  Lana is such a good listener.  And I’d just finished running some stuff by her, and started to switch the conversation over to her, when I heard a scream and then they were there and Lana was shooting and moving through them.  I picked up the ones that came in the back way and dropped them.  It was over just like that.  And I looked over at Lana, and she looked at me with this big grin on her face.  Then her expression changed and she pointed in out the window.  And I just dropped.  It wasn’t fear.  It was just my survival instinct kicking in.

What were the last words she said?  Jax asks.  It won’t make sense to you without context, but since you asked: “what one man can do, another can do – better”.  We were talking about the fable of the frog and the scorpion, he tells Rolf.  Rolf just looks at Kostamo and says nothing.  She was trying to get me to walk away.  “There’s no shortage of frogs” is what she told me.  Rolf clasps hands with Kostamo.  I’m glad you made it.  Don’t go down the road of survivor’s guilt – just pay it forward.  Try and get some rest.


You guys go in, I’ll join you in a minute; I want to talk to the surgeon, and Rolf takes the man by the arm and leads him away.  Simon and Jax head into the recovery room, where Lana has a blindfold over the compresses on her eyes.  Simon announces that they’ve brought Rolf.  I’ll let him have my seat, Bettina says and squeezes Lana’s hand, as she gets up and goes over to stand with Simon against the wall.  No one says anything.  Rolf comes into the room a minute later and walks up to the bed and kisses Lana on the forehead and then takes her hand with his as he sits down.  I’ve got great news, he tells her.  I just talked to the surgeon.  Your optical nerve is undamaged.  Hi, Rolf.  Lana tells him, smiling at the unexpected display of affection.  Now for the bad news, he sighs.  Mr. Ed, the talking horse, has the empty feed bag blues.  Everyone laughs.  Were you watching Mr. Ed when they came and got you?  Bettina asks.  He was singing that his filly doesn’t want him to come around no more, because all he’s got is appetite.  Lana bursts out laughing, and the others in the room chuckle.  Lana grins in Rolf’s direction.  It might be a little while before you get your sight back, Lana.  There’s a heli-coil procedure that is in early stage development.  There’s dead silence in the room, as everyone stares at Rolf in shock.  I’m blind?  Lana asks softly.  Blinded.  A verb of the transient tense, Rolf replies.  Lana doesn’t say anything for awhile.  Thank you for telling me, Rolf.  How’s Kostamo doing?  Get some clothes on and let’s go for a walk; he needs to talk to you.  I’ll be waiting down the hall, after I find a bathroom.  And everybody watches Rolf get up and leave the room.

Everyone but Bettina and Lana’s mother gathers in the waiting room.  Who do you think you are?  Lana’s dad glares at Rolf, when he comes into the room.  A piñata -  take your best shot.  Use a chair if it will make you feel better.  Lana’s father drops his head, and sits down suddenly.  Simon sits next to him, and grasps his shoulder, and pats it a couple times.

My daughter needs to rest.  The man finally says.  Make rest a necessity, not an objective.  Rolf responds.  Newton’s first law of motion applies.  The man leans forward and puts his head in his hands.  How can she lead an active life now?  He murmurs.  Rolf goes over to Jon and they clasp hands and exchange a bro hug.  I’m waiting impatiently, willing skin for skin, Rolf says in a guttural voice.  Jon looks at him with large eyes and everyone stares at them.  The breakdown in Generations is just brutal.  If we could craft something around that…  Jon pulls out his phone, and finds the song on Spotify, and presses play.  Skip forward to the three minute mark.  Rolf tells him.  Rolf does the vocals.  Then he raises up his hands in frustration.  See where they lost the thread.  Jon nods.  I’ll work on it, Jon says.

You’re really good on guitar, Tom tells Rolf as the song continues to play on Jon’s phone.  Jon can make anyone look good, when he sets up your rig.  Even you, sir, Rolf says grinning at Lana’s father.  Think you could play this?  Rolf asks.  They switched back to E.  What is this?  Jax says laughing.

There’s a knock on the door, and Bettina’s pastor comes into the room.  Pastor Larry, Tom announces in surprise, and goes over and shakes his hand.  Jon hurriedly turns off his Iphone.  Just thought I’d stop by, and see if I could pray with Lana.  Tom nods. Her mother and Bettina are with her now.  They’re all coming this way.  Simon gets up and goes over and shakes his hand.  And introduces him to the guys.  The pastor’s gaze lingers on Jax.  It impresses me no end to see you here, Pastor Larry tells him.

May I pray with you, sir?  Pastor Larry asks Lana’s father.  Your prayers don’t go any higher than the ceiling, he responds.  The Catholic church is…Rolf interrupts.  A man of understanding holds his peace, Rolf says, and shakes his head slightly at Lana’s father.  Do you want me to leave?  Pastor Larry asks.  What do you think of this song?  Rolf asks him.  I want an honest reaction.  Free associate.  Focus on the interlude after the the breakdown.  Pull it up for the man, Jon.  Jon starts at the breakdown and everyone watches, fascinated as Rolf shadow drums.   Jon copies Rolf’s guttural vocals.  It sounds like the Lion King, the pastor says a minute later.  Jax and Simon burst out laughing.  I hear that too, Jon admits.  The digital reverb and delay though, Rolf interjects.  Nobody else hears U2, circa Joshua Tree?  I hear a hint of country western, Tom says.  Bettina leads Lana, now wearing a set of scrubs, into the waiting room.  Jon kills the song.  Lana, Pastor Larry is here.  Tom announces.  Lana, may I pray with you?  Yes.  Lead me to a seat please, she whispers to Bettina.  Okay, turnaround and sit down, Bettina tells her.  I’ve got you.  Instead, Lana kneels.  With her elbows on the seat, she folds her hands together in supplication.  Bettina quickly joins her.  And Pastor Larry kneels beside her.  The righteous are as bold as a lion…he begins, and says a brief prayer of thanksgiving for Lana, and asks for comfort and strength in the days to come.  Thank you, Pastor Larry.  Lana says when he’s finished, and reaches over and pats his hand, and then gets up.  Tom comes over and shakes the Pastor’s hand again.  Thank you for coming, Pastor Larry.  Simon goes over and gives the man a hug.  Be seeing you, he says.  Jax nods at him in approval.

Where’s Rolf?  Lana asks.  He left to make sure Kostamo is ready, Jon says.  Jon, if you’d escort me there…  Jon comes over and Lana takes his elbow.  Lead the way, Jax.  Jon tells him, I don’t know where I’m going.  Bettina gets the door for them.

Just Lana, Tim announces to the group.  Tim, is that you?  It’s me, he says huskily.  I’ll bring you in to see him.  Where’s Rolf?  Simon asks.  He left.  Tim says.  Bettina frowns, and Lana’s parents exchange a glance.  I’m ready when you are, Tim.  We’ll be waiting out here, Bettina tells her.


Tim’s phone beeps ten minutes later.  And he goes back into the room, and brings out Lana.  Bettina, I’d like to go back to my room please and rest.  Bettina takes her arm, and they walk down the hall together.