May 27, 2003

A Without A Trace/Magnificent Seven ATF/AU crossover

This is for Suzy and the DD gang.

"Where the hell is Fitzgerald this time?"

"Colorado," Vivian replied.

"Colorado?" Jack repeated? "Ski trip?"

"Among other things. Said he’s got some relatives and friends near Denver."

"He gonna be there the whole two weeks?"

"That was the impression I got."

+ + + + + + +

Martin waited patiently as the crowd began to gather around the conveyor belt. The buzzer had sounded and it had started moving, just seconds ago. He was amazed at how the people clamored around, awaiting their luggage, as if their suitcase would never come back around again if they didn’t get it the first time. Peeking over the shoulder of a young woman, he thought he spied his own suitcase, black like seventy five percent of the others, he picked it out by spotting the red, white and blue bandanna he’d knotted around the handle. Now he just needed his skis…. There they were, in the fluorescent green bag, no mistaking that one for someone else’s.

Suitcase and skis gathered up, Martin headed for the rental car desk.

+ + + + + + +

"Hey, Chris?" JD called, leaning against the office doorjamb. "Buck and I are ready to head out to interview Wellings. Anything else we need to know?"

"Don’t think so," Chris replied. "I think Buck has a pretty good handle on him. He knows what buttons we need to press."

"You gonna pick up Vin at the airport? He’s due back today, right?"

"I was supposed to, but he changed his flight to a later one. Something about being able to visit a friend in Charlotte. He won’t be back until late tonight, said he’d take one of the hotel shuttles and then the bus or something."

"You’re not gonna let him do that, are ya?" JD balked.

"When’s the last time you argued with Vin?"

JD just shook his head and left the office.

+ + + + + + +

"Two weeks. Two weeks of snow, snow, snow," Martin said to himself as he drove away from the airport. "No missing people to find. No smart-ass comments from Danny. No snide remarks from Samantha. No mothering from Vivian. And no silent treatment from Jack. Just fun, sun and snow. And maybe some snow bunnies…" He smiled at the last remark. Shook his head when he realized that he was just quoting Danny and Samantha’s comments when he told him of his vacation plans. "And yes, Vivian, I brought my extra gloves and hats."

+ + + + + + +

"You sure that’s him? Thought you said he’d be heading toward the city," Zeke asked.

"I’m positive. I know what he looks like, I was there at the trial, you know. And you saw the flight information - that was his name on the passenger list!" Tony replied.

"Fine. Then let’s do this. There’s no one else around."

+ + + + + + +

Martin caught the movement out of the corner of his eye. Checking the side and rearview mirrors, he saw the car coming up quick, ready to pass him.

"Moron," he muttered at the driver, as he slowed down and moved a little to the right of the lane, giving the car plenty of room to pass.

He didn’t expect the car to slam right into him.

"God dammit!" he shouted, trying to gain control of the car, keep it on the road.

He lost his grip on the steering wheel the second time the car hit his and found himself heading toward the shoulder. Hitting the brakes and grabbing the wheel, Martin tried to control the inevitable crash into the guide rail, but a third hit to the car sent it spinning around, only to have the driver’s side hit the rail, and Martin’s body slam into the door and window.

Zeke and Tony got out of their car and rushed over to Martin’s, their guns drawn.

"Looks like he got knocked out!" Zeke called out to his brother.

"Good, it’ll be easier," Tony replied. "You grab him, I’ll grab his stuff."

Looking around, making sure there were no other cars coming, the two quickly put Martin and his luggage into the trunk of their car. Zeke got out the duct tape he’d had readied there and bound Martin’s hands and feet and placed another piece over his mouth. Looking around once more, he closed the trunk.

"What about the car?" Zeke asked.

"Follow me," Tony replied, getting into the driver’s seat of the rental. "I know a place we can ditch it."

+ + + + + + +

Headache. Bad headache. Those were Martin’s first thoughts as he woke up. His next thoughts were of panic, when he realized that he couldn’t move and couldn’t see.

What the hell happened?! His mind raced to come up with answers and as he realized that he was bound, effectively gagged, and in the trunk of a car, he remembered the car that had struck his. Dammit! He took a deep breath through his nose. Calm down Fitz. Panicking isn’t gonna get you anywhere. Think. He tried to recall the car that had hit him. Tried to remember if he saw the faces of the man… Men. There were two of them. He squeezed his eyes shut as he tried to see their faces. Shit! Another deep breath. Okay, next question. Why? I only just got to the airport. Haven’t had time to piss anyone off or hit on someone else’s girlfriend yet...

The car took a sharp turn to the right and stopped. Martin tensed. Was this it? He waited for the trunk to open, to see his captors. He heard voices, but couldn’t make out the words. A car door opened and shut. Then he found himself rolling over as the car lurched forward and sped out. He wriggled around as best he could to get comfortable - as comfortable as one could get when tied up and stuck in the trunk of a car - and tried to think of a game plan. He tried his best to kick at the trunk’s lid, hoping it might not have shut tight. He tried kicking at the tail light assembly, hoping to pop it out or break it. Nothing he tried helped. He was stuck.

He had no way to figure out how long he’d already been in the trunk of the car, but Martin figured that it must have been about an hour or so when the car came to its next stop and he heard the car doors open and close. Relax, Fitz. Can’t fight ‘em. Just wait and see. Wait and see.

At last the trunk opened and Martin had to shut his eyes against the bright sunlight.

"Come on, Tanner," Tony said as he grabbed Martin’s arm. "Joy ride’s over."

Zeke grabbed his ankles and the two men pulled Martin out of the trunk. Martin couldn’t help but struggle, it came as a reflex to the manhandling. Unfortunately, he found himself heading face first to the ground.

"Oops," Tony muttered, staring down at Martin. "My hands slipped." He closed the trunk of the car and headed toward the house. "Bring him in," he told Zeke as he walked away.

Zeke looked at his brother and then at the man glaring at him at his feet. He shrugged his shoulders, grabbed Martin by the ankles and dragged him into the house.

+ + + + + + +

Vin Tanner looked at his watch again and groaned. Thirty-six hours. I’m gettin’ too old for this shit, he thought, recalling the time spent partying, dancing, eating and…not sleeping, in Charlotte, North Carolina. And why is it that I can’t ever sleep on these damn flights?

He’d spent the past two weeks attending various training seminars on the East Coast. The first was a firearms training session he taught at the ATF Academy. While there he found himself talking with the ATF big wigs about a new firearms contract. Apparently, one of the gun manufacturers putting in a bid had some deals that seemed to be too good to be true. Vin shook his head at that one. Money always wins. Don’t mean shit if the guns are worthless, as long as they’re cheaper. Next, it was up to an anti-terrorism seminar held in New York City, hosted by the NYPD and the New York

State Police. Then he found himself with two days to spare and decided to head to Charlotte to visit an old friend. Vin smiled. Best damn part of the whole trip! His wallet was a whole lot lighter, having to pay for the additional flights, himself. There was no way the business office in Denver would count that as a business trip. He realized that he never even bothered to cancel his return trip from New York. Oh well.

He rubbed his neck and stretched it out as he tried to get comfortable, resigning himself to the knowledge that he wouldn’t be sleeping any time soon. The Vinnebago. It’ll be nice and quiet out there. Yup, I’ll stop at the apartment, get the Jeep and head out there for the weekend. His plan set, Vin relaxed and put on the headphones as the in-flight movie began.

+ + + + + + +

Martin found himself on the floor of an empty bedroom. The house seemed to be in fairly good shape, what he saw of it anyway, as he was dragged through it. He’d tried to communicate with Zeke, tried to get the man to at least take the tape off his mouth so he could at least find out what was going on. He hadn’t recognized either of the men. And they’d kept calling him "Tanner" so it was obvious that it was a case of mistaken identity. But until they take this fucking tape off me, they aren’t gonna know that! he cursed.

They’d left him alone for a while, and Martin once again tried to loosen the tape holding his hands and feet together. It was useless, though. Zeke had done a good job. He heard the men talking about him, or the Tanner guy they thought he was. Shit. Why can’t they be like normal thugs and go through my pockets looking for loose change? They’d find my wallet and driver’s license and see that I’m not Tanner! Thinking about being searched, Martin wriggled his arms around a bit and realized that the men had taken his gun. Double shit!

He heard footsteps coming his way and watched as the two men entered the room. Again he mumbled through the tape, trying to get them to hear him, tell them that they’d made a mistake. But they ignored his pleas.

"Shut up, Tanner," Tony said, just before backhanding Martin across his face. "You’re not going anywhere until Larabee brings us Mickey. You remember Mickey, right?" he asked, crouching down next to Martin, pulling his head up by his hair. "Your hair was a little longer then; you had it in that queer pony tail when you busted him. You set him up. And now, if Larabee and your other buddies want you back, they’re gonna have to give Mickey back to us."

Martin tried to protest, say that he wasn’t Tanner; that he didn’t know who Larabee or Mickey were, but found himself backhanded once more. He struggled to get a breath through his nose as it bled; found himself gagging. He was forced to swallow down the vomit and blood.

Tony didn’t care if he sent Larabee a dead man in return for Mickey, but apparently Zeke had some sense. "That’s enough, Tony," he spoke up. "Larabee ain’t gonna do squat for us if he’s dead."

"Just making him look nice for the picture, Zeke. Show him we mean business."

Martin had just recovered and started to breathe on his own when he felt himself being pulled to a sitting position. Then, the flash of a camera momentarily blinded him. He heard the whirring motor of a Polaroid and saw Zeke pull a picture from it. A few seconds later it was held in front of his face.

"Think Larabee’ll have it framed?" Tony asked and laughed.

Then he was shoved down the floor and left alone in the room once again.

+ + + + + + +

Vin turned the key again. "Shit!" he cursed as the Jeep’s motor failed to turn over. Again. "One more time, come on, start for me, baby," he murmured as he tried the key one more time. "God dammit!" he shouted, pounding the steering wheel and dash with his fists. "I just wanna go get some sleep somewhere quiet," he whimpered, dropping his head down against the steering wheel.

"Vin? You okay?"

Vin looked up at the words and saw his neighbor, Joe Foley, standing next to the Jeep.

"Won’t start again?" Joe asked.

"Yeah, the piece of shit," Vin replied, hitting the dash again. "Just when I really needed to get outta here."

Joe saw the tired and pained look on Vin’s face as the bass on one of the other neighbors’ boom boxes was upped a notch. "You heading out to that camp of yours for the weekend?" he asked.

"Was hopin’ to. Jeep’s got other plans."

"You wanna take my car?" Joe offered. "Marie and I are headed to her mother’s for the weekend. We’ll take her car."

"Nah, can’t take your car, Joe," Vin responded.

"No, really, Vin," Joe cut in. "The car’ll just sit here anyway."

"Well, if you’re sure, Joe, I’d sure appreciate it."

"I’ll go get the spare set of keys."

Fifteen minutes later, Vin was headed out of the city in Joe’s car.

+ + + + + + +

Chris pushed the button on the remote again. Not much on to keep his interest, he’d been surfing through the channels, staying on the hockey game on ESPN for a few minutes, then heading back to CNN, then over to a western series on the Hallmark Channel then back to the hockey game again. Grabbing his beer and taking a swig, he went back to the western. Damn, that, cowboy looks familiar, he thought. Leaning back and relaxing, he was soon startled by the ringing of his phone.

"Larabee," he answered.

"Agent Larabee, this is Judy from the front desk. A package was dropped off for you a little while ago. We’re treating it as a suspicious package at this time, but Agent Smith would like you to report here, to get your opinion."

"How is it suspicious?" Chris asked, already heading for the door.

"The man dropped it off at nine-thirty at night, for starters," Judy replied. "He wasn’t from any delivery service or anything, just said he was a friend of yours and was dropping it off."

"I’m on my way."

+ + + + + + +

Martin stared at Zeke as he entered the bedroom. He didn’t know what would be next. He only hoped that the man would remove the duct tape from his mouth so that he could tell them that they’d make a mistake. But then, they might just kill you outright, Fitz. Shit. Maybe he could bargain with them. From what he’d heard, Martin realized that Tanner must be some kind of law enforcement officer. Tony had mentioned Tanner busting Mickey and setting him up. Larabee must be one, too. Okay, Fitz, so they got the wrong cop. I can still be of value to them. This Larabee guy, if he is a cop, should still be willing to negotiate for a hostage, even if it isn’t one of his own. Right?

"You gotta go? Because this is your only chance, Tanner. Take it or leave it," Zeke offered, coming to stand in front of Martin.

Martin nodded his head. This could be the opportunity he needed to escape…

"And don’t think of trying anything, Tanner, or it’s gonna hurt," Tony added from the doorway.

…or not. Maybe it would just be the opportunity to get the tape off.

Martin watched as Zeke sawed at the duct tape at his ankles. Once they were free, Zeke helped him rise from the floor and gave him a nudge toward the doorway.

"The only reason we’re doing this, Tanner, is because we don’t wantcha stinking up the place," Tony muttered as Martin and Zeke walked by, toward the bathroom.

Once there, Zeke pushed Martin in first and then cut the tape at his wrists. "Two minutes," he said and went to stand in the hallway.

Martin immediately brought his hands to his mouth and pulled at the tape. Fingers numb from being taped together for so long, it took him a few tries to get the tape off. He took a deep breath and tried to formulate his next plan of action. After his two minutes were up, Martin calmly walked out to the hall. Zeke and Tony were there waiting.

"Hands," Zeke ordered.

Martin hesitated, but a brief look at the gun Tony waved in his direction had him holding his hands out in front of him. "Look," he began. "You got the wrong guy. I’m not this Tanner guy."

"Bullshit!" Tony replied, shoving Martin face first into the wall. "I know you, Tanner. I watched you every day in that courtroom. You can’t fool me."

"Just look in my wallet! My name is Martin Fitzgerald. Everything in there, my driver’s license, the registration for my truck, my credit cards… My name is Martin Fitzgerald," he implored.

Curious, Zeke reached into Martin’s back pants pocket and pulled out his wallet. Sure enough, there were the items Martin mentioned, all with the name Martin Fitzgerald on them.


"It could just be a fake name, like that one you used when you were undercover and busted Mickey," Tony replied, shoving Martin into the wall again.

"Look again," Martin ground out. "Look at the FBI card in there. Do you think I’m gonna be undercover as an FBI agent? Where’s the sense in that?"

Tony looked over at Zeke, his eyes questioning. Zeke flipped through the wallet some more and found the government identification card. He showed it to Tony.

"Looks legit," Zeke said, confusion obvious in his voice as he handed the wallet to Tony.

"It is. All you gotta do is call the FBI office in New York City. Ask for the Missing Persons Unit and they’ll tell you that I work for them. That I’m Martin Fitzgerald, not this Tanner guy." Martin sighed tiredly. He’d been saying this to Tony and Zeke, if only mentally, for hours now. He wanted to get it over and done with. And hopefully with a happy ending.

"You’re Tanner," Tony insisted, putting the wallet into his own pocket. "For as long as Larabee believes it."

"Then what?" Zeke asked. "What if Larabee doesn’t believe. Hell, what if the real Tanner’s there when he gets the picture?"

"Don’t matter," Tony replied. "We still got us a hostage and he’s still gonna give us Mickey."

+ + + + + + +

Vin turned down the road to his campsite and cursed. It was a seasonal use roadway, so plows didn’t come through unless it was an emergency or one of the road residents paid a service to have it done. Most of the people living nearby had four-wheeled drive vehicles and could usually maneuver through the snow and mud. Like his Jeep usually could. As the wheels of Joe’s car spun again, he looked up towards the sky and asked, "Why me?"

Grabbing his duffel bag and locking the car, Vin began walking the mile to the Vinnebago. By the time he got the generator going, with the heat turned up full blast, Vin had only one thing on his mind. Sleep. After taking off his coat and wet clothing, he pulled his cell phone and pager from his belt and turned them off. After putting them inside one of the kitchen cabinets along with his gun, Vin then headed for his bed. It didn’t take long to fall asleep.

+ + + + + + +

Chris arrived at the Federal Building shortly after midnight. Judy pointed him in the direction of Agent Smith’s office. Once there, he saw what had once been an ordinary looking yellow manila envelope sitting on Smith’s desk. He recognized his name printed on the front.

"So?" he asked.

"So," Smith returned, "Some guy came in and asked Judy to give this to you. Said he was an old friend of yours. Before Judy could ask him anything, he was out the door. She called me, naturally, and we treated it as a suspicious package."

"I can see that. What’d you find?"

"No bomb, no traces of any drugs or biohazards," Smith replied.

Chris knew there was more. "But something else. What’s in it?" he asked.

Smith handed Chris a pair of latex gloves. "Best you see for yourself," he said.

Chris knew he wasn’t going to like what he saw, but picked up the envelope. Inside was a letter. Next to the letter, he saw the picture. He didn’t want to take it out. He didn’t want to look at the man in it. He stole a quick glance at Smith and saw the sorrow in his eyes. He took out the picture. It was slightly out of focus, taken too close. The duct tape hid half the face. Blood covered the nose and cheeks. The eyes looked a little red and puffy, but he could see the blue; could see the anger and defiance in them. It was Vin. But yet… Chris looked again. Something wasn’t right, it didn’t look like Vin. But it was Vin. Unable to look any more, Chris picked up the letter.

"God dammit," he swore.

+ + + + + + +

At least we made some progress, Martin thought. No more duct tape across my mouth. He was still left on the floor, bound hand and foot again, though. He wasn’t sure what to do with his newfound freedom of speech. Any attempts he’d made to plea bargain with Tony or Zeke had met with failure - to the point of Tony getting rough again and giving him a black eye. Zeke… Martin knew that any further attempts to speak with the brothers had to be with Zeke. He seemed to be willing to listen to reason, at least.

He’d pretty much gotten the gist of what was going on. Apparently Zeke and Tony had another brother, Mickey. Mickey was currently in prison, possibly on death row or something, and this Tanner guy had worked undercover in order to nail him. Larabee was Tanner’s supervisor or boss - someone high enough in their department’s hierarchy that the brothers thought he could pull enough strings to get Mickey sprung. Then again, hostages will usually help pull those strings, too. Even if he was the wrong hostage.

Martin shook his head again. These guys must have been seriously whacked out during the trial if they can’t remember what Tanner looked like; if they’ve mistaken me for him. All I wanted was a nice, quiet little vacation. A little snow, a little skiing, a nice woman to keep me warm maybe…How did it all go wrong? Somehow I gotta find a way to blame this on Danny. He set up that betting pool with Vivian, telling her that I wouldn’t get lucky. Well, you got that right, Dannyboy.

Martin squeezed his eyes shut tight, wincing at the pain on the left side of his face. He dropped his head back to rest against the wall and sighed. That Larabee guy better be good, he thought.

+ + + + + + +

"Call ‘em all in, Judy," Chris said as he headed for the elevator, picture, envelope and letter in hand. "Tell them to get here yesterday."

As he rode the elevator up, he looked at the picture again. How could he not know if this was his best friend or not? Sure, they always say that everyone’s got a double somewhere in the world, but that’s just what they say… Right? Chris scrubbed a hand through his hair as he exited the elevator and headed toward his office. Didn’t matter if it was really Vin or not - whoever was in this picture was in the hands of Mickey Lester’s brothers and that could only be a bad thing.

Needing to put his mind at ease, though, still hoping that it wasn’t Vin, Chris picked up his phone and dialed Vin’s apartment. Then he dialed his cell phone. And his pager. And waited. He then dialed the airport and got connected with the airline that Vin flew in on from Charlotte. Yes, he did board the plane; yes he did get off and pick up his luggage…

Okay, first thing when the rest of the team got there was to send a couple of them to the apartment, to see if he’d made it that far, he planned. Chris rubbed his eyes in frustration and looked at his watch. Almost one in the morning.

+ + + + + + +

Jack groaned as he rolled over in bed to answer the phone. "Malone," he got out, hoping that it was some sort of bad dream or even a wrong number, so he could go back to sleep. "What?" he asked, waking up a bit more and sitting up in bed now, wincing when he caught the time on the clock. "He’s on vacation in Colorado somewhere. It can’t wait? Yeah. Yeah, I know." He ran a hand down his face and thought for a moment. "Yeah, let me get back to you, I’ll see if I can find out where he is and have him get back to you." He hung up the phone and collapsed back onto the bed with a sigh.

Jack got out of bed and went to the kitchen. Unplugging his cell phone from its charger, he opened up the address book and looked for Martin’s cell phone number. He leaned heavily on the counter as he dialed and listened to the rings. No answer. "Shit." He looked up another number and dialed it. After three rings it was answered.

"Danny? Yeah, it’s Jack. Yes, I know what time it is. Listen, do you know where Fitzgerald is staying in Colorado? I don’t know, Greco from the US District Attorney’s office just called me. They need Martin’s notes for the Sanderson trial first thing Monday morning. Yeah, I asked him if he knew what time it was. Look, see if you can get a hold of him, alright? Get back to me one way or the other."

Jack turned the phone off and headed back to bed, wondering if he’d even be able to get back to sleep.

+ + + + + + +

Danny climbed out of bed with a groan, murmuring apologies to his bed partner, shushing her back to sleep. He headed first to the bathroom and then to his living room, rubbing his hair and face as he went, trying to wake up and make sense of Jack’s phone call. He knew Martin had a big trial coming up. It was due to start on Wednesday, but Martin wasn’t due to testify until the second Monday after that, when he’d be home from his vacation.

"Vacation. Yeah, serves him right that I’ve gotta bring him home as soon as he gets there. Little shit getting to go skiing while the rest of us have to go to some blood-born pathogen and OSHA regulations bullshit seminars on Monday," he groused. "Now where the hell was he staying?" Danny sat there trying to remember the name of the resort where Martin said he’d be staying. He turned on his computer and logged onto the Internet.

Finally, Danny came up with a name and began searching for the resort’s website. Finding the site and the resort’s telephone number, Danny grabbed for his cell phone and dialed.

"Yes, my name is Daniel Taylor, I’m with the FBI’s New York office," he said to the receptionist. "I’m trying to reach a fellow agent of mine who is staying at your establishment. I was wondering if you could connect me with his room. Yes, I know what time it is. His name? Martin Fitzgerald. He should have checked in sometime last evening or afternoon." He waited a few minutes, heard the uncertainty in the receptionist’s voice when she asked for Martin’s name again. "But he does have reservations, right?" he asked. "Thanks."

Martin never checked into the resort. Danny thought for a bit, remembering that Martin had mentioned some relatives and friends. But no, he said they were from out of state, too, that they were going to meet up later in the week. Danny rubbed his hand through his hair again. He sent the computer on another search, this time for Denver’s airport.

+ + + + + + +

"You’re sure?" Jack asked, adjusting the phone on his shoulder as he got dressed.

"Yeah, Jack. Airline said he flew in, picked up his baggage. Avis had him renting a car and picking it up."

"But he never checked into the hotel," Jack finished. "Maybe he changed his plans? Stayed somewhere else?"

"I don’t think so," Danny countered. "Fitz couldn’t stop talking about the slopes at this one resort. Said they were the best around, that he wouldn’t go anywhere else in Colorado."

Jack took a deep breath. "Alright, keep looking into things. I’ll be at the office in an hour and a half or so and we’ll go from there."

+ + + + + + +

"Chris? What’s goin’ on?" Buck asked as soon as he crossed the threshold of Team Seven’s office.

"Do you know what time it is?" JD said right after.

"I know exactly what time it is, boys," Chris replied.

Josiah moved back from the door to the conference room to let Buck and JD follow Chris in, so that the last two agents could see the picture for themselves.

"Shit," Buck whispered.

"What do they want?" JD asked.

"It’s the Lester brothers," Nathan replied. "They want Mickey back."

"What’s the plan?" Ezra asked, bringing in a pot of coffee.

"Get Vin back," Buck replied.

"Smitty’s already working on the Lesters’ known haunts, seeing if he can find some possible locations where they might be holding Vin," Chris began. "Buck, I want you and JD to go to Vin’s apartment, see if you find anything. I’m assuming they would have waited for him there. See if the neighbors saw anyone, got a vehicle description or something we can go on."

"Why don’t we talk to Mickey?" Josiah suggested.

"Next on the list, Josiah," Chris said with a smile. "You and Ezra head out to visit him. AD Travis already had the Warden updated."

"What about me?" Nathan asked.

"We’ve got some leg work of our own, Nate," Chris said. "Starting with getting the word out about what’s going on, so we can find him faster."

Tasks assigned, the six men went about their business, that of finding their friend.

+ + + + + + +

Martin woke with a start, disoriented to time and place until the pounding in his skull reminded him of his predicament. He let out a deep sigh and rolled his shoulders and neck, trying to loosen up the muscles that had been tightening as he slept. He’d fallen asleep trying to listen to the brothers’ talking, hoping to hear of their plans for him, whether they were successful at getting their brother Mickey back or not. He doubted it, though. Law enforcement didn’t just go about doing trades for hostages. He’d have to wait Larabee out. He just wished he knew how much longer it was going to take.

"Hey!" he shouted toward the hallway. "I gotta take a piss!"

+ + + + + + +

Vin turned over in his bed, snuggling down into the thick quilt with a contented sigh. His pleasant dreams of his time in Charlotte, North Carolina kept him deep in slumber, without a care in the world.

+ + + + + + +

"What’ve we got, Danny?" Vivian asked, entering the office just ahead of Samantha.

"New missing persons case?" Samantha asked.

"Yeah, I guess you could say that," Danny replied.

"Martin’s missing," Jack added, coming out of his office to join the others, a file folder in hand.

"What?!" the women asked in unison.

"What’s happened?" Vivian asked.

"I got a call from Mike Greco of the US District Attorney’s Office, he was looking for Martin," Jack answered. "Danny and I both tried contacting him, without luck. Danny called the resort in Colorado he was supposed to be staying at and they said he never checked in."

"I just got off the phone with the Colorado State Police," Danny announced, looking at Jack. Jack recognized the look in Danny’s eyes. It was not going to be good news. "They found his rental car about fifteen miles north of the airport. They said it looked like it had been in an accident, and that there was blood inside."

"Hospitals?" Vivian asked.

"The trooper I talked to said that they were checking," Danny replied. "But he also said that where the car was found was not where the accident occurred."

"So maybe Martin was injured, but kept driving? Now, maybe he’s wandering around on foot?" Samantha suggested.

"They’re not sure. The trooper is going to keep us informed."

"We heading out there?" Vivan asked Jack.

"Pack your bags," he replied.

+ + + + + + +

Buck and JD parked on the road, just behind Vin’s Jeep. JD looked at Buck. This was not good. If the Jeep was here, and Vin wasn’t…

"He wouldn’t take the Harley out in this weather, would he?" JD asked, despite knowing the answer to it.

"No, JD, he wouldn’t," Buck replied. "Not that we won’t check that garage he rents for it, anyway. Come on."

The two exited Buck’s car and looked in and around the Jeep. The doors were locked, it seemed to be in reasonably good condition - all its tires were inflated and the hood was secure. No tools were scattered in or around it. They headed up into the apartment building. Getting to his apartment, they knocked, hoping against hope, despite having seen the picture at the office, that their coworker would answer the door.

JD looked at Buck, who nodded sadly, before they took out and donned latex gloves. Then Buck took the key to the apartment he’d been given by Chris and opened the door. Entering the apartment, they didn’t see anything that immediately caught their eye as being out of place, or wrong. They walked through the rooms of the apartment, looking for signs of struggle, checking the windows for entry marks, and found nothing that appeared unusual.

"He was here," Buck finally said, opening the hall closet. When JD came to see what he’d seen, Buck stepped aside to show JD the suitcase on the floor, with the Charlotte Airport luggage stickers still attached.

"Time to start talking to the neighbors," JD said.

"I’ll call Chris," Buck added.

+ + + + + + +

"Do you really think Mickey Lester’s gonna help?"

"No, Nate, I don’t," Chris replied. "But at least if we send somebody out there to talk to him, his brothers might think we’re at least trying. Maybe even making arrangements."

"So Ezra and Josiah are just buying us some time, maybe giving us some extra cards to play."

"You got it," Chris replied, sitting down at his desk and reopening one of the file folders from the case involving Mickey Lester. "Travis said the warden might be willing to play along with anything we come up with, too."

"Like maybe saying he was going to release Mickey…"

"Hope it won’t get that far," Chris cut in. "Smitty and Denver PD’s narcotics guys are coming up here with the latest cases involving Zeke and Tony Lester. Why don’t you work with them, look for some potential addresses to check?"

"Sure, Chris."

Nathan was about to leave Chris’s office when the phone rang.

"Yeah, Buck," Chris spoke into the phone. "Okay."

After he hung up, he looked at Nathan, who was looking at him expectantly.

"Vin made it to his apartment, at least. His luggage is in the closet, with the Charlotte Airport stickers still attached," Chris reported. "The Jeep is parked outside. They’re gonna start waking up the neighbors."

Nathan just nodded his head grimly.

+ + + + + + +

Martin groaned as the sunlight hit his face. He didn’t remember falling asleep. He thought he hurt too much to fall asleep, but apparently not. He rolled over onto his other side with another groan and tried to sit up. It wasn’t easy. Sometime before falling asleep, Zeke had returned and retaped his ankles, to hinder any escape plans Martin might get, so he explained.

Finally upright, Martin opened his right eye, the only one he could at the moment, as the left was still swollen shut, and wondered why he even bothered. Now, Fitz, no time to start quitting. Gotta have a little faith.

"Rise and shine, Hostage-boy!" Tony shouted as he entered the room.

What was I saying about faith?

"Time to get the morning chores done," Tony continued, approaching Martin with a knife in hand. "And one of them ain’t gonna be cleaning up after you. If you’re nice and behaved, I might even let you have some breakfast."

"Gee, thanks," Martin muttered.

"You better hope you can thank Larabee. The ball’s in his court."

+ + + + + + +

Danny waited with the others for their flight to be announced. He watched as Jack spoke on his cell phone nearby.

"Who’s Jack talking to?" Samantha asked.

"Denver office," Danny replied. "While we were driving over, he got a call from them. They’re already working with the State Police and setting up a crime scene where they found the rental car."

Samantha nodded, then said, "I wish we had some clue about what this is all about. You don’t think it’s about his trial next week, do you?"

"I don’t think so," Vivian replied, entering the conversation. "Martin told me a little about it. It wasn’t anything serious enough to warrant hurting anyone over. Especially him."

"Even if they needed his notes already?"

"Probably just double checking things. You know, last minute, pre-trial jitters. Fitz said Greco’s the new guy," Danny answered.

Finally, their flight was called and the four FBI agents headed toward their gate.

"Anything new?" Vivian asked as Jack put his phone away.

"Not yet. They’re putting out a Teletype to the local law enforcement agencies, though, with what information we have so far."

"Which isn’t much."

"No, but it’s a start."

+ + + + + + +

Vin rolled over with a contented sigh. He opened his eyes and saw the bright sunshine coming through the window above his bed. He reached for the blinds’ cord and gave it a tug, lowering them and blocking out the light. He pulled his pillow up and put it over his head and promptly fell back asleep.

+ + + + + + +

JD and Buck headed back to Buck’s car.

"Nobody’s seen him, Buck. Or, at least, not since they saw him get off the bus," JD said.

"And the only person that actually talked to him, Mrs. Transue, only said that he was glad to be home and headed for bed," Buck replied, adding, "and it doesn’t look like he got that far, judging from the made bed." He ran a frustrated hand through his hair. "Those Lester boys must’ve just swooped right in somehow. I don’t know how, since Vin wouldn’t go without a fight."

"Unless they threatened him somehow, maybe said they’d hurt one of the neighbors," JD suggested.

"Maybe, but something’s still not addin’ up, JD. Come on, let’s head back to the office."

+ + + + + + +

"What’ve you got, Smitty?" Chris asked the agent as he entered the conference room.

"I’ve sent agents out to the last three addresses the Lesters were known to use," he began. "Denver PD’s checked out Bailey’s, Hunter Road and a few places used by their favorite hookers. No one’s seen them for a week."

"Didn’t think those boys were that smart," Nathan remarked. "Setting up a new place ahead of time just to take Vin."

"What else have we got?"

"We’ve got APBs out on all their known registered, and unregistered, vehicles. Denver PD and the State Police have had them out for the past two hours," Agent Smith reported. "What about you? Anything?"

"Buck and JD have been to Vin’s apartment. His Jeep and Harley are both there, his luggage is there and there’s no sign of any struggle. None of the neighbors saw anyone or anything unusual."

"Damn," Smith muttered. "What about that camper of his? Maybe he went there and got grabbed?"

"Like Buck said, his Jeep and bike are still here in Denver," Chris answered. "The Vinnebago’s an hour drive away; not on the bus route, either."

"Girlfriend’s house?" Smith was reaching, now, hoping to find out where Vin had been grabbed, hoping to find a witness.

"If he was seeing anybody, he would have been home a few days ago, and not made that side trip to Charlotte," Chris replied. "Looks like we might just have to wait for Tony Lester to call us and work from there," he added with a sigh. "I don’t like playing that way."

+ + + + + + +

"Joe Hannon, Denver office," the man said, introducing himself to the New York agents as they walked through the airport terminal.

"Jack Malone," Jack replied, shaking the agent’s hand. "Vivian Johnson, Danny Taylor and Samantha Spade," he added, motioning to his team, introducing them.

"Don’t ask," Samantha said quickly, stopping the question she saw on Hannon’s lips.

"Any news?" Vivian asked.

"State Police found the original crash site just five miles from here," Hannon began. "We’ll stop there first, give you a look-see. They found some debris from another vehicle and some good tread evidence. It looks like your man was run off the road and then taken."

"How do you know? And taken where?" Samantha asked.

"We’ll show you when we get there," Hannon said, stopping in front of a couple of government-registered vehicles. He tossed Danny a set of keys. "Follow me."