His index finger held the drapes open just wide enough so he could see the wharf. Cold eyes stared out of his expressionless face. His mind was a steel trap. Sharp, hard and precise. Uncompromising and unforgiving. Just a couple of minor details he needed taken care of, and then all the months of organizing and planning would be put into action.
His anticipation built as the plane taxied across the water and made it's final approach to the wharf. He could see Stan and Bill already making their way down the gravel path to greet the visitors. He fought to hold back the churning bitter taste that always assaulted his stomach when he thought of this man, or either man for that matter, but now he wasn't just thinking about him. For the first time in ten years he was about to see one of the men he held responsible for the ruination of his life.
He turned away from the window for a second and took a deep breath to get his emotions under control and a grip back on the all-consuming hate that wanted to overwhelm him. As he felt his usual cool, calm facade wash over him, he again turned back to the window and prepared himself
for the appearance of that despised face.
The bolt that hit him almost took his feet right out from under him, and his heart leaped to his throat. Then he looked closer...no, that could not be the person he had been missing the last ten years, but he was so close. The same dark hair and slight build, and even from this distance he could tell this person had the same laughing eyes and smiling mouth. He forced his heart rate to slow and refused to let the 'what if' feelings take over again; he had too much to do in the next few days to let himself get distracted now.
He was so wrapped up in the first young man that had disembarked the plane, he almost forgot to look at the last man that got out. Waiting for the loathing to hit, his vision momentarily blurred. When he refocused, it was on a stranger who appeared to be in his mid to late twenties with long hair hanging down past his shirt collar.
"NO! Where are you Larabee...get off the plane...get off the plane!" The man frantically watched the wharf, but it was soon apparent no one else was on the plane except the pilot.
Releasing the shades, he whirled around, a scream of outrage stuck in his throat. This couldn't be happening...all these years of waiting and planning...how could it have gone wrong now?
He willed himself not to panic. It wouldn't do any good to fall apart now. Reorganize and re-plan the strategy, just like he would back at the business he had taken over from a bank repossession twenty years ago and made into a half billion dollar a year success story. He needed to formulate a new plan, but first needed all the pertinent facts.
He turned to look at the huge man sitting in a lounge chair in the corner of his room. The man was unscrupulous and without any moral fiber. He was a twisted, demented, cold-blooded man who only seemed to come alive when hurting another human being. And that was exactly why he had been hired for this job.
"Larabee did not get off the plane...find out why and who these other two men are, and what their connection to Larabee is."
"What do you want me to do with them in the mean time?"
"Nothing...let them have the pretense of being here for a nice little vacation. Have Bill and Stan do their guiding thing, I don't want to make them suspicious. Let's let them fall into a feeling of false security until I decide what I want to do with them."
"You better decide real quick, Watts. I have others booked for next week and I want you out of here before they arrive."
"I expect you to do what I say, Sorenson. I paid you more for this trip than you will make on the next dozen seasons combined. It'll happen when and how I say!"
"I'm not one of your scared underlings and this is not a business office, your money only got you in the door. You're in my world now...so don't threaten me!" The man's lips curled up into what was supposed to pass as a smile, but the callow eyes never changed as he stepped out of the chair and made his way to the door.
Then Evan Watts moved back to the window as the other man exited the room, already he dismissed the guide from his mind and watched the small group of men make their way up the path towards the lodge. "Okay, who are you guys and will hurting you...hurt Larabee?"
Vin climbed the veranda stairs two at a time and threw open the heavy wooden doors to the lodge, the other three men following right on his heels.
"Where is he...what have you done to him?" Vin asked, keeping his voice cool as he scanned the lounge area and could not spot JD anywhere.
"He is in the dining room, all you have to do is cooperate and he won't get hurt..."
Vin moved past the man before the sentence was finished and rushed into the dining room that was just located off the lounge area. Across the now crowded room Vin saw JD propped up in a bar stool, his head hanging low.
As if sensing his friend's presence, JD raised his eyes up to meet Vin's. Vin read defiant confusion in the hazel eyes, before JD dropped his head back against his chest as though the art of holding it up any longer had alluded him.
Vin did a head count and wondered how the hell there were suddenly nine men at the lodge and who the hell they were, as he wove his way through them to get to JD.
Dropping down on a knee, he touched a lightly panting JD on the arm and angled his face under JD so the kid would not have to lift his head up to see him. Except for a cut on his lip, JD looked uninjured, but was obviously heavily drugged.
"JD...you okay kid?"
"Vinnnn..." came a slurred response, "Oh Vin...I'mm sorry man...did...didn't see...it com...coming!"
"Don't worry about it, I didn't either. You hurt anywhere?"
"They...stuck something in...can't move...my...head's...spinning," JD said in short gasping spurts, "What's...happennn...ing?" Fog drifted in and out of JD's head as he tried to follow all the conversations going on around him, but he was unable to comprehend most of it
"I don't know JD, but we'll get out of it ...whatever it is!" Vin whispered in JD's ear and placed a comforting hand on the back of the younger man's neck.
Looking up, Vin finally took the time to observe the men standing around them and was more than a little uneasy with what he saw. Along with Bill and Stan, three of the men he recognized as the other guests staying at the lodge. Like the rest, they were now dressed in outdoor camouflage gear and all carried various assortments of weaponry that Vin did not expect to see at a normal fishing lodge. One man sat partially hidden in a dark corner away from the rest, his face hidden in the shadows, and he had no idea who the other two men were. They all moved with a frigid, militant precision that belied any story that they were just regular fishermen.
Vin felt his body start to tingle with apprehension. What the hell had they gotten themselves into here?
Vin jumped when he felt a pant leg rub against his arm...there were not many men who could sneak up on him, but the man suddenly beside him moved with a quiet, practiced stealth. A chill washed over him as he concentrated on the man who he had first seen out on the wharf in what seemed an eternity ago.
The man was big. He was a whole head taller than Vin, and weighed in at close to two hundred and seventy pounds. All of it hard conditioned muscle, and solid mean. He had a square head that sat on top of a thick neck. Frosty blue eyes stared out of his weathered face and a long red, jagged scar slashed across his left cheek, almost cutting his neatly trimmed beard in half.
Vin slowly pulled his hand away from JD and rose to his feet, keeping himself between this giant and JD, "Who the hell are you, and what did you give him?"
"Vin Tanner...age twenty-six, member of the Denver ATF branch since early 1999...sharpshooter, crack shot and weapons expert. Chris Larabee's right hand man and confidant. JD Dunne age twenty-one...with Denver ATF since the middle of 2000...computer, surveillance expert...roommate and best friend with one Buck Wilmington."
"We know who we are...you didn't answer my questions, who are you and what did ya do to him?" Vin asked in his slow drawl, curbing back his temper while he tried to sort out in his mind what was going on. They obviously were not here by accident, but damn if Vin could figure out what these guys were up too.
"You don't get answers, Tanner...you just get to play along." Bill and Stan each grabbed one of his arms and pulled him towards the stairs. The large man reached down and picked JD up, tossing him over his shoulder as easily as he would a sack of grain. Vin could hear JD moan out a protest as he hung totally limp and boneless down the man's back.
As they approached the stairs, Vin knew he could break away from the two men holding him and be out the door in a flash, but he would not leave JD. Even if by some chance he did manage to get his partner away from the massive giant holding him, JD would never be able to make a run for it on his own. So Vin just let them direct him up the stairs and hoped they would be able to make their escape at a later time.
As if sensing the intention of the sandy haired agent, the giant stopped on the stairs in front of Vin, "Precisely why we gave your friend that little shot...makes you much more cooperative. According to the information we obtained you are the dangerous one."
"Yeah...if I'm so dangerous why didn't you just give the shot to me?"
"We could have. I have a use for both of you in the morning, so it didn't matter to me which one of you got pricked, but the guy paying me the big bucks wanted to make sure you were kept in line."
"He who? Who wants to keep me in line? What is going on here, you're not making any sense?"
"No more questions Tanner, you know all you need to know, or at least all you're getting from me, so start moving."
They pushed Vin past the bedrooms he and JD had been using and made their way down to the very end of the hall before choosing a room. Banging the door open, Bill and Stan shoved Vin roughly up against the far wall and JD was flung haphazardly across the single bed. The door was then pulled closed and a key could be heard turning in the lock.
A string of profanity exploded out of Vin as he pushed away from the wall and rushed over to the bed. JD lay sideways across the bed with his eye's closed and his feet dangling on the floor.
"JD...can you hear me...JD?" Vin gave JD a little shake and felt immense relief when a pair of hazel eyes opened up to look back at him.
"Oh god, Vin...I...can't...feel nothing...works!" Now that they were alone Vin could see JD start to give into the panic he felt at losing all control over his body.
"Easy JD...don't fight it, whatever they gave you will wear off soon. Try to relax," Vin lifted JD's feet up from the floor and laid him the length of the bed. Looking around he spotted a comforter on a chair and wrapped it around the slightly shivering agent.
JD closed his eyes again, but Vin could tell he was fighting sleep. Soon however the drug won the war and JD fell into an uneasy slumber, mumbling incoherently and tossing his head against the mattress.
Vin got off the bed and moved over to the door. Pressing his ear against it he listened for any voices or sounds that might indicate someone was guarding the door. Not hearing anything he tried the doorknob, but he already knew they were locked in. He next ran his fingers over the door hinges, but they had been welded top and bottom, so Vin could not pull them out and remove the whole door from the jam.
On the far wall a mini-blind hung down over a closed window, but even from across the room Vin could tell it was way smaller than the window in his or JD's room. Vin didn't know how long it would take for whatever drug they stuck in JD to wear off, but there was no way in hell he would leave without the kid. And no way that JD could squeeze out of the tight-fitting window, and sneak down a drainpipe in his present condition.
An open door revealed a two-piece ensuite, but unlike his and JD's it only could be entered from this room and had no window at all. While in there Vin searched in a small linen closet for a facecloth to put on JD's forehead.
Frustrated, Vin went back and lay on the bed beside JD, settling the cool cloth against the kid's head. This was making no sense to him whatsoever. He knew he did not know any of the men downstairs and JD never said anything about knowing anyone. He was sure they hadn't just innocently walked into the middle of something. They had been brought here for a reason, except Chris was the one who was supposed to come, not them. So what was the connection between Chris and the men downstairs? No matter how he sorted the situation out in his mind, he could not figure out who these men were, nor could he come up with why he and JD were being held here. So, what did he know...nothing...Vin knew nothing and it was not a state of being that he was accustomed to.
Vin was well known for his intuition and premonitions, even JD was starting to develop strong perceptive instincts, but this had caught them both flat footed. Vin berated himself for letting down his guard, but he had been under so much stress lately, he really believed this was a healing trip for him. JD...well JD was always ready to give into youthful high-spirits with lots of gusto. He helped to keep the group of them young, even when they wanted to kill him for his unending supply of stupid stunts and bad jokes.
JD had finally settled into a fitful sleep; his head tossing stopped, but the odd moan still emulated from the back of his throat. Vin wished he knew what to do for him, or that Nathan was here. JD was normally such a bundle of pent up energy, it was disconcerting to see him so paralytic. Hard to believe only an hour ago they had been clowning around so carefree on the wharf together.
"Have to figure this out,' Vin thought, as his eyelids slowly started to close over his tired eyes. 'What's going on...'
Vin woke with a start. He didn't remember even closing his eyes. The light bulb over the bed still glowed above them, but the dim haze of a new day also lightened up through the window shade. Not sure what startled him, Vin rolled part way over to check on JD, only to find wide disorientated eyes staring at him.
"Hey, JD...how you doing?" Vin asked in a soft, comforting voice and waited for the younger man to get his bearings.
JD struggled to sit up, but only got half way before collapsing back to the mattress as the room blurred around him. He could just make out Vin's shadowy image before shutting his eyes again.
"JD...we have to talk, buddy, try to wake up now, okay," Vin tapped JD's face with his open palm in an attempt to sharpen the kid up. "Come on, kid. Rise and shine. You still in there somewhere?"
JD made a feeble attempt to push away the person making the echoing noises inside his empty warehouse of a head. Weakly he flopped a hand across his eyes and tried to rub the haziness away. Suddenly something wet and cold was draped against his face. JD moaned softly as he soaked up the cool relief.
Vin set the facecloth from last night on JD's forehead, and then got a groan of displeasure from JD when he removed it so he could dampen it with fresh water.
"That feel better?" Vin asked and felt some comfort when the kid nodded.
"Yeah...help me sit up would ya, Vin?" JD's small voice still sounded muted, but at least he recognized Vin and was able to talk in complete, albeit short sentences.
"Go slow kid and take it easy, I don't want ya to pass out on me again. We got some figuring to do and I need you to be with me!"
JD sat up slowly with help from Vin and two pillows. He still felt lightheaded and as weak as a newborn kitten, but at least he could hold his head up and concentrate on what Vin was saying.
"You recognize any of the men downstairs JD, or catch any names?"
JD gave his head a negative shake, "What do you think they want from us Vin? I kept asking them last night before you came back to the lodge, but everything got so hazy. I think I stopped asking when that big guy hit me."
"I think this has something to do with Chris, but I don't know what it is. They didn't look happy when it was us that got off the plane yesterday, but I wasn't paying attention to them, I just wanted a damn holiday. You bring a cell phone or any weapons with you?"
"No...the brochure said there was no cell service anywhere around here, so like a fool I left it back at the apartment, and I didn't want to pack a weapon. I mean we are just supposed to be here fishing, right!"
"Don't worry about it, I didn't bring any of mine either. Last thing I wanted to hear was the ringing of a damn phone. Most of the guests must feel the same because I never saw a phone or even a CB radio anywhere in the lodge, and for the first time in years I left my gun at home. I never go anywhere without my gun. What kind of karma do I have that this happens the first time I'm not packing? Was there a picture of Willmere Lake or the lodge in the brochure that you saw JD?"
"I don't remember seeing any, I think it was just a write up. Why?"
"Do you remember how long a flight it was supposed to be? Did Chris or Buck say anything to you before we left?"
"Yeah...they said the flight was about two hours, but now that you mention it, we must have been in the air just over three hours yesterday. I never paid any attention to the time or direction we were flying. I know we flew over a few communities, but the pilot never told me the names of the places. Oh man, are you thinking the same thing I am?"
"I'm thinking we are not where we are supposed to be."
"Then Chris, Buck, and the others won't know where to look for us!"
"We are supposed to be here for three more days yet, that means they won't even start looking for us for at least four more days!"
"What do you think these guys want with us?" JD's voice started to sound weak and foggy again.
"I imagine we will find out sooner that we want too. Why don't you rest for a few more minutes, JD, while I check for a way out of this room. You think you might feel like moving around soon?"
"Yeah...uh un...yep...soon," JD mumbled as he lost the battle for consciousness to the drug that still invaded his system. Vin pulled the pillows out from under JD and laid him back down on the bed.
Moving over to the window he lifted the blinds and peered outside. The bedroom was on the north side of the lodge, so all Vin could see was the black green of a very dense forest.
At the sound of multiple footsteps coming fast down the hall towards their room, Vin left the window and positioned himself between the door and the bed.
Quick hands unlocked the door and it was flung open with a bang, startling JD out of his slumber. Bill and Stan rushed in to grab Vin's arms and started to drag him out the door. Behind them, the enormous man from last night pushed past them into the room and yanked a wide-eyed JD out of the bed by the front of his sweatshirt. With a gasp JD felt his debilitated legs sag, and he fell in a heap to the floor.
"Get up runt," the huge man commanded as he kicked an unprotected JD in his exposed ribs. From the hallway Vin heard JD cry out and turned his head to see his friend withering on the floor while trying to block some weak kicks that were aimed at his body. The man seemed more intent on tormenting JD then actually hurting him.
With a cry of rage, Vin twisted from the grasp the two other men had on him. Placing his hand behind Bill's head, he pulled him forward and head butted him, then released him to sink to the floor in a daze. Turning, Vin swung the side of his hand until it connected with Stan's throat in a hard solid blow, then kicked a foot out sideways and impaled it into the wheezing man's stomach, also knocking him to the floor.
"Now that was not very nice, Tanner. I'd suggest you help them up and cooperate a little better than that."
Vin whipped around at the sinister voice and found the psychopathic giant
holding JD up against the wall with his huge meaty hand wrapped around the kid's throat. JD struggled feebly against the hand as he fought for his breath.
"Okay!" Vin hollered, as he bent down to help the other two men back to their feet, "Let him go...OKAY...let him go!" Vin yelled as the large man continued his chokehold on JD.
"I helped them up, and I will cooperate. Now let him go!"
Vin would have rushed to JD, but Bill and Stan again grabbed his arms, none too gently and pushed him towards the stairs.
With a disappointed sigh, the man withdrew his hand from around JD's throat, flung the kid over his shoulder and packed him unceremoniously behind Vin, out of the room, and down the stairs towards the dining room.
The tables in the dining room had all been pushed back against a wall, with the bright tablecloths removed and put away. The mini blinds covering the windows and patio doors were drawn shut, blocking out the early morning sun and views of the lake. Vin was steered to the middle of the room where a single desk now resided with a laptop computer system parked on top.
A immaculately dressed man of medium height and except for some gray hair at the temples, an undeterminable age, approached him. Vin figured he was the man who had been hiding in the dark corner last night. Even with his not large build the man carried himself with authority and confidence. He was obviously used to giving orders and having them carried out without question.
"Type in Chris Larabee's and Judge Travis's home e-mail address," he ordered Vin, his voice frosty and short.
Vin hated being ordered around, except maybe sometimes by Chris. But he especially hated when it was done by some snobby, rich looking, obnoxious light weight.
"I don't think so!" Vin responded in his slow drawl.
Behind him he could hear JD murmuring out a protest as he still hung upside-down off a shoulder. In the background, some of the men watched the proceedings, while others moved between the dining room and lobby. Vin ignored them all, instead he continued to concentrate on exchanging unfaltering stares with the affluent looking gentleman. Neither of them as much as flinched in their refusal to back down from one another.
"Sorenson!" the frosty voice finally snapped out an unspoken order to the large man.
Vin searched the room with just his eyes to see who Sorenson was. He already had a fairly good idea which man the rich guy was talking to. Hating to be right, he watched as the huge man holding JD heaved the kid back onto his feet.
JD grunted in pain, as his ribs sprang back, and after hanging upside down, his blood rushed from his head to his toes making his vision blur and head swim. Artic-cold eyes bore into a swaying JD from the man towering above him, "What are their e-mail addresses?" Sorenson demanded in a merciless voice, bending down so his face was just inches from JD's.
"Who's...what addresses?" a baffled JD asked, trying his darndest to get his eyes focused and his mind unclogged.
He never even saw the first blow to his cheek that snapped his head hard to the right. The next one he saw out of his hazy vision, but he was powerless to get out of the way. The backhand came at him, but he could not convince his body to respond until the hand hit him again and his head snapped back the other way. On shaky legs, JD reached out to grasp the back of a chair. With a loud crash, both the chair and JD toppled to the floor.
"Yeah, you're real tough...smacking around someone half your size who you've drugged the hell out of," Vin hissed out in anger, "must make you feel like a real man!"
With a mutinous glare Vin, sat down and typed in his friends home e-mail addresses, then before anyone could stop him, the usually easy going, mellow agent spun out of the chair and buried his fist deep into Sorenson's kidney. The bigger man curled his hands into fists and granite-hard punches, with two hundred and seventy pounds behind them, connected with Vin's face. The first blow cut him above his left eye. The second slammed into his mouth, rocking him to the ground spitting blood. The fight was short lived, but still Vin felt some satisfaction as Sorenson moved away rubbing his aching kidney's.
"Morning boss...didn't expect to see you here today," Josiah said from his desk as Chris exited the elevator.
"We don't have to be at the court house till 10:00 am today, and I got an e-mail on my home computer from Vin this morning. He said to get together this morning at eight and he would send us something on-line from the lodge. Buck should be here soon, I have a bet with him that Vin wants us to come get him and bring him home so he can get away from JD and actually have a quiet holiday."
"I miss anything yet?" Buck interrupted them as he rushed off the elevator, "had to get held up in traffic this morning of all mornings. Why didn't you call sooner; me and a sweet little friend were just stepping into the shower when you rang and then I had to go like hell to get here."
"Did I hear you right, Buck? You gave up a shower with a lady friend to rush down here, just to see a message from Vin and JD. I think you are starting to carry this Mother Hen thing a little too far. You better come over here Buck...let me find my thermometer and I'll check you out for fevers or that mad cow disease!" Nathan shook his head as he looked with disbelief upon Buck.
"Now Nathan...I never said I gave up my shower and sequential activities, I just said I had to rush. Which being a medical orientated kind of fellow, you should know is not healthy for a man...if you get my drift."
"Anyone who wishes to inhabit the gutter gets your drift Mr. Wilmington," Ezra strolled over to join them, a cup of French Vanilla Latte in his hand.
"Well, since you knew what I was saying Ez, you must be sharing living quarters with the rest of us lowlifes," Buck laughed at their undercover expert's expression, "Yep...you have to get up pretty early to one up me Ezra."
"I would never, as you so articulately quoted, try to 'one up you', I'm not even sure what that is supposed to mean. Sounds like something a Englishman would say," Ezra said sitting on the edge of Vin's vacated desk.
The five men turned as the elevator dinged, announcing the arrival of someone else. The door opened and Judge Travis immerged, brief case in one hand and a cream cheese bagel in the other.
"Getting so I can't even find time to sit down and eat a proper breakfast any more, well let's get this done. Why are you all standing out here...it is almost eight."
Chris gave the judge a quizzical look.
"The message!" the
"What message?" a confused Chris asked.
"The e-mail I got from Vin, he said to be here by eight, that he was sending us an important message and video. Please don't tell me I got out of bed and rushed down here with only a cold bagel for breakfast because of some gag your vacationing men are playing!"
"Don't know Orrin, Vin e-mailed me that he was sending something on-line, but he never gave any indication as to what it is, he never even said if it was important."
It was two minutes to eight, so the men adjourned to Chris's office and all found themselves a place to sit so they could see the screen.
"This better be important or I'm going to have Dunne and Tanner's heads on a platter," the judge said as he angled the spare chair in closer and removed his eyeglasses from his briefcase.
At exactly eight o'clock a notice appeared that Chris had a message from Vin. Hitting receive Chris sat back in his chair and waited for the visual brilliance that could only be JD and Vin.
The screen came to life with a video of JD and Vin exiting the floatplane onto a large wharf. The lens focused first on a close-up shot of JD, his exuberant expression bringing a smile to all the faces in the office, next came Vin who already looked more relaxed than he had the last three weeks.
The next shot was of JD bolting up a hillside at a run and then of Vin walking contentedly along behind, stopping occasionally to look at wildflowers or birds.
Buck laughed at Vin's serene posture, "Looks like we have us one of them flower power children in our midst, boys. Talk about taking the time to stop and smell the flowers...oh wait...there goes JD running back down the mountain in high gear. Look at Vin's face...I think JD just ran over a bunch of flowers. Oh, oh...Vin just picked up a rock...run JD run! Ah shoot...he dropped the rock, why do ya always have to be a nice guy, Vin. JD don't know how lucky he is, Vin doesn't miss at that range very often."
The picture turned from a mountainside to a ski-boat racing up the middle of a clear blue lake, towing a wakeboarder along behind. The boarder was cutting out with speed and getting tremendous height on all his tricks as he edged back and forth behind the boat. The camera finally panned in and they could see it was JD putting on the display.
"Wow...when did he learn how to do that?" an impressed Chris asked Buck.
"Don't look at me, I know he goes out to some ski-club on the odd day off to ski, but I never go with him and he doesn't talk about it much. I thought he went out and hung onto a rope and got dragged along behind a boat. I didn't know he actually knew what he was doing. I mean we're talking about JD here!"
"Hey, there's Vin out floating around in a canoe...now that's what I would like to be doing. Save the fast, noisy stuff for kids who haven't discovered the wonders of arthritis or reduced hearing yet," Josiah sighed as he watched Vin bobbing in the gentle water.
"Where did all the waves just come from?" Ezra asked just as the ski-boat suddenly came into the picture frame with JD flying over top of a startled Vin on his wakeboard and sending a spray of water over everything under him.
"No...no...don't rock the boat Vin!" Nathan yelled at the screen, but the flopping Vin didn't listen and the canoe flipped over on top of him.
The six men roared with laughter as a sputtering Vin appeared on the lake surface.
"Bad JD...bad, bad bad!" Buck snickered, "for once I'm glad it ain't me on the receiving end of a JD encounter."
The next shot was a quick one, just showing the two men smiling as they sat on a veranda together while Vin ate. That seemed harmless enough.
Next was a picture was JD flying across a meadow, going full bore on the back of a speedy bay horse. The kid was whooping and hollering as the wind whipped his long black hair from his face.
"Damn fool kid's going to get himself killed. What the heck is he thinking of and where the hell is Vin...he should be keeping an eye on that idiot. But he is probably out in front somewhere and JD's just chasing him down. They both are probably going to come home with broken necks...and I tell you what...when they do, I ain't doing overtime to make up their work for them...no sir, I am not!"
"Well, I don't think you have to worry about the physical condition of Mr. Tanner. He hardly looks to be in any peril at this point," Ezra grinned as a disgusted looking Vin finally appeared at the edge of the meadow. JD and Vin appeared to chat together for a minute and then JD raced off again, leaving the disgruntled Vin to follow at a snails pace behind.
The meadow changed to a tranquil smaller lake where they could see Vin and JD fly-fishing. They instantly deciphered Vin's smooth rhythmic style from JD's chuck, snag and retrieve style even from the distance that the footage was filmed.
"Oh, oh...JD's spotted something, he has that 'I'm on a mission' look on his face. Vin, turn around...turn around! JD's doing something behind you. Are you crazy, you know you should never turn your back on that boy!" The others looked at Nathan with amused grins on their faces, as the team medic yelled at the screen again.
Ezra placed a hand on Nathan's shoulder, "You do know they can't hear you, right?"
Nathan shot the undercover agent a miffed glare.
Ezra raised his hands in surrender, "I was just checking."
"Hey, look at the size of that fish Vin's got! I've got to learn which prayer he says to the fishing gods...when's the last time you saw a lake trout that big?" Josiah pressed his face closer to the screen to get a better view of the fight going on between Vin and the fish. Then JD appeared into the frame trying to surf on an old decrepit raft, and ended up knocking Vin arse over teakettle into the lake.
"I warned you, Vin not to turn your back on that kid...did I not warn him?" Nathan asked no one in particular.
"Amen brother, you did so!" replied a snickering Josiah.
All the rest watched along with JD, for Vin to surface. They could see JD lay down on the raft and stick his head in the water, than in a panic leap into the lake. All the men felt the hearts lurch as they waited to see what had befallen their friends. They all let out a collective sigh of relief as the two youngest reappeared. Vin lay against the side of the raft for a few seconds gasping for air, then his mouth moved as he appeared to say something to JD. The last frame was of mud exploding in JD's face.
"That was too funny, I wonder who did all the filming. Try to hit save instead of delete this time, Chris, and I'll make some copies for everyone." Ezra was always happy to get some pay back, even if it was just innocent footage of a fishing trip on the team's two biggest pranksters.
Then the film showed hazy, black before they realized it was filmed at night. They could just make out Vin and JD sitting on a wharf, drinking something and talking. JD pulled his bare feet out of the lake and stood up, offering a hand to the still sitting Vin. Suddenly, with no warning JD was sailing over Vin and landing in the lake. The six men again let out a roar of laughter.
"Oh lord...ain't revenge a bitch, eh JD!" Buck howled as he watched his dripping wet roommate trudge up a path and out of their view.
"Oops...everyone cover your eyes...old Vin's about to go au natural," Chris covered the screen with his hand as the others pried around his fingers to watch a naked Vin dive into the lake, then the tape ended.
"Well, I don't know if that was worth getting up an hour earlier for, but it was pretty good entertainment," the judge said as he moved his chair back and removed his eyewear.
Chris reached over to disconnect his computer from this web site when a picture flickered across the screen. Chris flinched as the picture just flashed in front of him, then Vin appeared on the screen again, his face bloody and his eyes flashing daggers. The camera scanned part way around the room to show JD drooping in a chair in front of a desk, the one side of his face darkened with a bruise.
All six men froze at the sight of their two friends. "What the hell is going on?" Chris whispered as fear for the two young agents hit him.
The shadow of a figure appeared in the frame and his synthesized voice started to talk through a distorter, making it unrecognizable, "You were supposed to come here Chris Larabee...you messed up my plans for you. For this, I was very angry at first...then I realized you sent to me in your place, your closest friend, and this young agent, barely the age to be called a man. Both strong and vibrant, with so much to live for. So much of life yet to experience...getting married, having children, having grandchildren. That was taken away from me by you, and so I think I will take it from them. Your turn will come, I will come for you both. You have my promise on that...but for now we will concentrate on these two!"
Chris grabbed Ezra urgently around his arm, "Go see if you can trace this somehow." With a nod the agent disappeared into the outer office.
"The court has reached a verdict. This court has found them guilty of various imaginary crimes. Of course we know they are not guilty, but that doesn't matter in my court of law. Just like it didn't in your courtroom Judge Travis."
The four men in the office turned to face the judge, but he could not offer them any answers as his baffled expression registered an increase in his distress level.
"Your court was full with injustice; as you held a bias discrimination and pre-conceived prejudice against him right from the start. He was purity and virtuous innocence, set to inherit the world with his goodness and honesty. But you choose not to see that. And you left shattered, heart-broken souls behind!"
Another man appeared on camera dressed in camouflage with his face completely covered in a ski mask. He walked over to JD, grabbed the young man by the neck and hissed at him, "read the note!"
"No!" JD squeaked out.
"Nathan...what's the matter with him, JD don't look right at all?" A frantic Buck asked as he stopped pacing and parked himself in front of the computer when he heard JD's voice.
"He looks to be drugged, but I can't tell you what with Buck, I'm not a mind reader, one drug can look and act the same as twenty others."
"Read!" the order was barked out a second time.
"Go to hell!" JD spit out, his spirit flashing even under the influence of the drug.
"You tell em' JD," Buck hollered his support at his friend, yet scared the kid was just making the situation worse.
A sudden howl was ripped from Vin's throat as a cattle prod zapped against a
patch of bare skin on his stomach.
JD screamed out an obscenity and tried to go to his friend's defense, but the man behind him put a strong hand on his shoulder and forced him to stay in the chair, "Sit boy!"
JD frightened eyes met Vin's; they told him it was okay. They told him that he had just been caught unaware and that it didn't really hurt that bad.
JD's eyes said he didn't believe him.
"Read!" JD flinched as the order was yelled a third time.
"Screw you and the horse ya rode in on too!" JD's young voice rang with defiance.
"Damn it to hell!" Chris cursed as he heard Vin grunt in pain again and saw JD, with anguish written all over his face, struggle to get out of the chair once more. "Josiah get the lodge at Willmere Lake on the line and see if JD and Vin even checked in there, then inform the local's to put a surveillance unit on the lodge and whichever search and rescue unit patrols that area to be on stand-by."
"Read!" The shout came for the forth time over the computer, but this time JD just shook his head and looked away as Vin fought back a scream and twitched violently as the prod again sent shockwaves through his system.
The three remaining men in Chris's office jumped as Buck slammed his hand through the drywall, leaving a fist size hole.
"Damn it, Buck!" Chris stormed at his oldest friend, "I don't need you going off the deep end. Keep it together."
"You okay, Buck?" Nathan asked looking at the blood that dripped down Buck's hand. He knew out of all of them, Buck would get on track and scour the earth till his last breath searching for their teammates. Buck was as loyal and dedicated to his badge as any officer, but more importantly he was dedicated to JD Dunne.
"Oh, just damaged a finger is all..." Buck muttered as he hung his head and fought to get his emotions back under control.
They all cringed when the command to read was shouted out over the computer for the fifth time.
JD looked at Vin, then at the camera with pleading eyes. Slowly in a haltering voice, JD started to speak, obviously humiliated at breaking, but he knew in his heart Chris would not believe a word of the crap he was being forced to spew now. It was just the principal involved, and JD couldn't watch them hurt Vin any more over a principal.
"Chris Larabee, this is the ruling on your punishment. This court has ruled, it is your fault and the fault of Judge Orrin Travis, that Vin and I have been convicted for your past crimes. The penalty is death." JD rolled his eyes up and slightly shook his head before continuing, his voice going from halting to monotone, "Let it be on your heads and let you both feel our pain, knowing this could and should have ended differently..." JD just shrugged his shoulders, "but you both made your choice's and now must live with the consequences. They at least will offer us a chance, but in the end we will die, just like he did and it will be our blood on your hands."
And the screen went blank.