Heart of Destiny

by Phyllis

Alternate Universe "Seven Investigations"

JD walked into the building that housed the office of Sevens Investigations and took a hefty slug from his bottle of water. He'd ridden his Harley to work, but it was 99 in the shade, and the garage had all those windows with the light streaming in...

It was just too hot to be outside, he decided. But, he was in the air-conditioned elevator now, and starting to feel somewhat better... Looked to be a pretty good day; light workload and he was getting off early to take Casey to an Aerosmith concert. But, when he got into the office, he was greeted by stern and angered faces who didn't even notice his entrance, as they were too busy glaring down a young woman in her late forties...

"What's goin' on?" JD asked aloud, walking over with a slight frown tugging at his features.

"JD, go wait in my office, kid." Buck ordered.

"JD? This is JD?" the woman gasped, getting up and walking over.

But Buck blocked her path.

"M'am, I tol' ya, it don't matter; you just go back where ya came from?"

"It wasn't my fault what happened!"

"What happened? What's going on, Buck?" JD demanded softly of his cousin.

"This woman's nuts." he ground out. "I don't know what she wants, but... she's a lying psycho." he informed him. "And, you stay away from him, you understand?!" he practically shouted at the woman.

She flinched, but would not back down.

"Twenty years ago, my son was switched at birth with another child--- a child that died in an automobile accident when he was eight."

"Wow, I... I'm sorry..." JD said sympathetically, not quite sure how to respond in a situation like this.

"Thank you..." she smiled, a few tears trickling down her cheeks as Buck glared. "You see, I didn't find out he'd been switched at birth until a couple of years ago, and, then I hired some private investigators. Well... I found him finally, after all this time..."

JD looked at her, puzzled.

"I don't get it... why are you here if you already found him?"

"Because, you're him; you're my son, JD!"

JD's eyes widened in shock, but before he could open his mouth to respond, Buck grabbed the woman by the elbow and "gently" escorted her out the door, slamming it shut behind him. He turned to JD, anger still evident in his eyes.

"I'm sorry, Kiddo; I don't know what her game is, but we'll find out, okay?"

Meanwhile, in the hallway, the woman got onto the elevator and pulled her cell phone out of her purse, tapping her foot impatiently for the person she was calling to pick up.

"General? Yes, it's me. I've made contact..."

+ + + + + + +

Buck gently pushed his cousin through the door of his office and closed it behind him.

"JD, I don't know what her game is, but she ain't your ma. I promise ya, kid, she's lying."

JD stared at his cousin. He wanted to believe him, but how could Buck Wilmington know for a fact. The hazel eyes bored into his cousin's dark blue. "How can you be so sure, Buck? If she just showed up here, how can you be so sure?"

Buck looked down as he rubbed his hands together. His face was flushed when he finally looked up again.

"She called last week. Chris and I got a packet from her with the paperwork the investigator gave her."

"Last WEEK?" JD yelled. "And just when did you plan on informing me, Buck?"

Both heads turned as Chris opened the door and walked in., his face stern. "JD, don't blame Buck. It was my decision as well as his to not tell ya about her."

The dark haired youth threw the bottle of water against the far wall and started to pace the length of the room. The two men waited as the young man gathered his thoughts and temper. They were not prepared for the look on the young face when he finally turned back to them. There was a total lack of expression on the young face.

"I want the packet."

"JD, she's lying…"

"Buck, I am old enough to make me own assessment of the information. I'm old enough to make my own decisions." He looked at both men, the cousin that had raised him since the age of eight and the friend that had become like a second father, and he knew that fear fueled the deception, but this was something he had to do.

Buck studied the face that he knew better than his own. With a big sigh, he walked over to the desk and yanked open the bottom drawer. Pulling the folder out, he stared at the words on the front. He wished he had never seen the thing. Raising his eyes, he saw JD standing with his hand held out, waiting. Chris stood to one side, his arms crossed over his chest and a frown on his face. Buck placed the hated material in his cousin's hand. JD turned and headed for the door.

"JD! Wait." Buck hustled across the room and followed the young man out the door. The tall man reached the outer door before the young man and placed himself between the kid and the door. "Where ya goin'?"

Black hair hung in the hazel eyes as JD glanced up briefly. "I don't know." He started to step around the taller man. Buck once again placed himself between the kid and the door.

"When ya comin' home?"

JD brought his eyes up and met Buck's. "Not sure." He didn't break the gaze as Buck asked.

"You are comin' home, aren't ya?"

The two locked eyes for a few moments. JD's frown softened slightly. "I'll see ya later, Buck." His tone was sorrowful, but gentle. The words were vague, but the eyes spoke volumes. He just needed a little while to digest the day's revelations. He would be coming home. Soon.

Wilmington stepped out of the way. As JD exited, he spoke softly to the boy's back. "I'll see this evening, kid. Ride safe." A slight nod was the only acknowledgement as the boy moved away and to the elevators.

Buck chewed on the inside of his lip as he watched the boy walk away. Larabee's hand on his shoulder drew his attention back to the room. He turned and, for the first time since the woman had walked in and announced her name, became aware of the other four men in the office.

He looked at the concerned faces and smiled, weakly. "He'll be fine. He just has to be alone awhile. To think."

The men nodded. The words sounded hallow to even him. Buck turned back to the small office, entered and closed the door behind him.

Chris stood for a moment. He looked over at the other four men. Walking over to a cabinet, he opened the middle drawer and pulled out a stack of papers. He strode over to the conference table and tossed the papers down. The papers fanned out across the slick surface of the table. Vin, Ezra, Nathan, and Josiah gathered round.

"Gentlemen, these are duplicates of what we got last week. It's all we have to work with. Everybody study up. We've got the groundwork. Let's see what we can dig up."

+ + + + + + +

The young man had no idea where he was going. He only knew he had to get out, to think. He had taken the elevator down to the garage and taken off on his bike. The packet was tucked into his jacket. He felt that if he could ride fast enough maybe he could outrun the words printed on the pages. He drove blindly.

When he saw the gates, he smiled. He entered the gates and followed the road as it curved to the left. He stopped half way down and killed the powerful machine. He sat for a few minutes, surveying the manicured lawn. It was a pretty place, quiet and serene. He sighed and then toed down the kickstand and leaned the bike over. Stepping off the bike, he moved from the gravel drive onto the grass. He slowly walked over to the low stones and stood staring at the names.

"Hey, Mama, Aunt Rose. Sorry I haven’t been out lately. It's been busy it work with Buck and Chris." He crossed his ankles and lowered himself down between the two stones. Reaching over, he dusted grass clippings off the headstones.

"Mama, I need to talk ya about something. First, I want ya to know that no matter what happens, you’re my mom, always." He dropped his head as he collected his thoughts. Raising his eyes, he took a deep breath. "Mama, a lady came to the office today. She came ‘cause she found out that her baby was switched at birth with another baby. She lost her little boy about the time you died, Aunt Rose. Now, she claims that little boy and me are the switched babies." He flipped through the papers that he had pulled from his jacket as he peeled the protective covering off.

He wiped the sweat from his face as he leaned back and lay down in the grass. He held the paper under his crossed ankles as his hand reached out and absently fingered the grass over his mother’s grave. "I can’t help thinking that if you had lived, you would want to know the truth. If your little boy was the one that died in that car wreck, you’d want to visit and get to know him. I know you would." He smiled to himself as thoughts of his mother drifted through his mind. "I don’t think that woman is really my mother. I’ve seen all our pictures. I look like you and Aunt Rose. People think that Buck is my brother ‘cause we look alike. But, even if she's right and she is my natural mom, she'll never replace ya, Mama. You have to know that."

He watched the clouds slowly float by. His mind drifted as the clouds passed overhead. He remembered how Buck and he used to watch the clouds and see what shapes they could find in them. JD pulled his mind back to the present. Laying his hand on the engraved words, he whispered, "I just have to be sure, Mama. I know you’ll understand."

He sat up and looked at the headstones again. Two sisters who died much too soon, two sons left as orphans at too young an age, but he had to make sure that the woman was mistaken. He was not her son. His mother was buried here along with her sister and their parents.

In his heart, it didn’t matter to him. Tessa Dunne was his mother, no matter what he discovered. Aunt Rose was, well, Aunt Rose. And Buck was his cousin. None of that was going to change. His face broke into a genuine smile. He felt lighter somehow. The tight fist that had gripped his heart at the woman’s words had lost its hold.

He jumped to his feet. Gathering the papers, he pulled his jacket back on and stuffed them into the inner pocket. He started back to the motorcycle, but stopped and turned back.

"Mama, Aunt Rose, you girls behave yourselves. I remember all those stories you used to tell me and Buck, Aunt Rose. Ladies, Mother’s Day is in two weeks. I promise to bring Buck out to visit."

With that, he jumped onto the bike and headed home. The word brought a warm feeling to his heart and a smile to his youthful face.

Buck came out of his office to find the entire crew going through the reports that indicated that JD was not the son of Tessa and Jonathan Dunne, but was actually Craig Stephen Kimball, the son of Stephen and Deborah Kimball. Stephen had died in the car accident that had also taken the life of their son; a boy that Deborah Kimball now insisted was actually John Daniel Dunne.

Buck pulled out a chair and, flipping it around, sat down with his legs straddling the back. "So, what are we doing, boys?"

Chris glanced up and then leaned back in his chair, interlocking his hands over his head. "Well, so far, not too much; just a lot of questions. We have the name of the hospital and the person that did the investigation. But we don't know who said that the babies were switched. Or why they were switched. Assumption is that it was an accident, but why reveal it eighteen years later. Also, if it was an accident, how do they know about it?"

"Anybody know this guy, Pratt, Aaron Pratt? He's the one that did the investigation." Vin asked.

Buck cocked his head and frowned. "Don't think I have. How about you, Chris?"

Larabee started to shake hi head, but stopped. "Buck, you remember that conference we went to? The one in Taos. I think he was there. You remember?"

"Yeah, now that you mention it, I do seem to remember him. If it's the guy that I'm thinking about, he seemed like a real straight up sort."

Chris reached out and shifted through the papers. Finding what he was looking for, he pulled it out. "His office is on the other side of town. Anyone up for a drive?"

Buck was on his feet in a second. Vin stood up also. Chris nodded as he stood. Looking back at the others, he said, "You boys keeping working. We'll be back in a little while."

The three men sitting at the table nodded as the other three headed for the door.

+ + + + + + +

JD left the cemetery and headed to the house. He was halfway home when he remembered that it was not even noon yet. He shook his head as he realized just how distracted he was by this whole incident. The boy turned and headed back to the office.

He pulled in and parked the bike. Forgetting about the papers, he unzipped the jacket to have the papers flutter to the ground. He chuckled as he squatted to pick up the papers. 'Totally distracted, that's what I am' he thought to himself.

The sound of an engine was his first clue that a car was close. The dark haired youth jumped as the car pulled up and stopped in front of him. He jerked up straight and looked into the face of Deborah Kimball.

"Miz Kimball? What are ya doing here?" he stammered.

She sat, staring at him. JD began to grow uneasy under her scrutiny. Finally, she blinked and seemed to regain her senses. She smiled at him as she began, "I wanted to talk to you. I want to explain. I want to get to know you."

"Ma'am, I'm sorry about what happened to you and your family, but I'm not your son."

"Oh, hon, I know that. I need to make your friends believe that for a bit."

JD frowned. "You know? But why?"

"Because we need you. You are a unique individual., Mr. Dunne."

JD's frown deepened. He had moved closer to the car, but now backed away. He backed into something He turned and found himself looking at the chest of the man, a man who grabbed the young man by the arm as he shoved a rag into his face. JD struggled in the vise-like grip, but soon lost the fight and slumped in the strong grasp.

JD was unaware as the man lifted him and placed him in the trunk of the car. He did not hear the woman tell the man to take the motorcycle and dispose of it. He lay in the stifling heat of the car unaware as the car pulled out and drove away him away from his family.

+ + + + + + +

Chris pulled up and parked the Dodge in front of the high-rise building. The three men entered the building and, after locating a building directory to get the office number, took the elevator up to the eleventh floor. They located the office of Aaron Pratt in the corner of the building.

"Nice location." Vin noted as he gazed out the window that featured a panoramic view of the city and surrounding countryside.

Buck nodded in agreement as they entered the reception area. A young woman with short blond hair greeted them. She smiled as they approached the desk. "Can I help you gentlemen?"

Chris stepped forward. "We’d like to see Mr. Pratt. Name’s Larabee."

The woman, Shelia, according to the nameplate that sat on the front of the desk, seemed to flinch at the name, but the reaction was fleeting and Chris wasn’t sure he had actually seen it.

The smile plastered on her face now appeared slightly off to him. She reached for the phone and pushed the intercom button.

"Mr. Pratt, there are three gentlemen here. They would like to speak to you." She paused for a moment and then placed the receiver back on the base. "I’m sorry, gentlemen, but Mr. Pratt is tied up and asked that I make an appointment for you. Would tomorrow at ten am be convenient?" she asked as she glanced at the appointment calendar in front of her.

Chris leaned over the desk. "No, we need to see him now." He spoke in a low tone that was deceptive in its volume.

All four people turned as a door opened. Aaron Pratt stepped out of the doorway and strode over to the side of the woman’s desk. "What’s happening here?" he asked.

The blond woman quickly cleared her throat. Indicating Chris, she said, "This is Mr. Larabee. He needs to speak to you."

Pratt’s face opened into a smile. "Chris Larabee, right? You’re one of the men at Seven Investigations." He extended his hand and the two shook.

Chris nodded at the others. "This is my partner, Buck Wilmington. And this is one of our investigators, Vin Tanner. Could we speak to you for a couple of minutes?"

"Oh, sure. Come on back. Shelia, I’m out of coffee cups. Would you mind getting some, please?"

The blond nodded and quickly left the room.

The men opened the office and took positions around the room. Chris took a chair in front of the desk, while Vin wandered over and surveyed the view from the office window. Buck stopped in the middle of the room and simply stood, too nervous to sit. He wanted to pace, to relieve some tension, but he controlled the urge and stood, watching as Chris took the lead.

"Mr. Pratt, you already know who we are, so I assume you know why we’re here. We just want to go over the details of your report." Chris noticed a confused look on the man’s face. He paused. It had only been two weeks since the report date. Surely, the man had not forgotten an investigation he had spent two years on. "We have questions about the Kimball investigation. The babies that were switched at birth."

Slowly, Pratt’s head began to shake. "I’m sorry, Mr. Larabee, I have no idea what you are talking about."

Chris caught a glimpse of Tanner as he turned and watched. Buck moved forward and now stood right in front of the desk. He placed both palms down on the desk.

"How the hell could you forget a case that you’ve been working on for two years?"

"As I have already stated, Mr. Wilmington, I don’t know what case you’re talking about."

Vin moved forward, his hand withdrawing a sheet of paper from his pocket. "This is what we’re talking about."

Pratt leaned forward and took the paper from Tanner. He leaned back as he began to read. Chris noticed the man’s brow crease as he read.

"That is your letterhead, isn’t it?" the blond man asked.

"Well, yes, it is." Pratt admitted as he turned the paper over to examine it. "But I did not write this report. I don’t understand. The date that is on the top, I wasn’t even in town that entire week. I had to go to the east coast for my niece’s wedding."

The door opened and the woman entered. She had a stack of cups as well as creamer and sugar packets. She placed them next to the coffee maker. She glanced over and then turned to leave, when Pratt called her name.

"Yes, sir?" She moved around the desk to stand next to her boss.

"Do you know anything about this?" He handed her the letter. The three men from Seven Investigations saw the woman blanch as she read the paper. Her hand shook as she tried stared at the words.

Pratt stood and placed a hand on her shoulder. He frowned as he saw the tears well in her eyes. "Shelia, what is going on? What is this?"

"I ..I gave some letterhead to mmy.. boyfriend. He..he was going to play a joke on a friend. I thought it was a practical joke. He’s always doing things like that. I didn’t think it would hurt anything."

Pratt directed her over to a chair and had her sit down. "Shelia, why would you do something like that? Do you have any idea what he is planning with this letter?"

"No, sir. I have no idea."

Chris moved around to stand beside the chair. "Lady, what’s your boyfriend’s name."

"I don’t want to get him in trouble."

"He’s already in trouble. There has to be a reason for doing this and I intend to find out."

"Larabee is right, Shelia. Who is this man and where can he be found? This is not a practical joke, Shelia. The information in this letter is fraud. He is trying to get something or deceive someone for some reason. He’s not much of a boyfriend to drag you into this."

The woman looked around at the men. She knew she was in trouble. Everyone wore a stern look. The man with the mustache looked as if he wanted to hit her. She shuddered at the anger in his dark eyes.

"I would not have given him the paper if I knew he would use it to hurt someone. I swear."

Buck had to bite his lip to keep from screaming at the woman.

Vin’s soft voice asked, "Where can we find him."

"His name is Jeremy Crawford. He works over at Methodist Hospital."

Vin nodded as the three men started toward the door. They heard Pratt as the door was

closing behind them.

"Shelia, I can not believe how irresponsible you acted…"

+ + + + + + +

Nathan and Josiah were going over the evidence contained in the packet as Ezra made some calls. The two men looked up as Standish hung up.

"It appears that our eye witness was a nurse in the nursery at the time of Mr. Dunne's birth. She was the one responsible for the switch according to the account in Mr. Pratt's report. Only, now she cannot be located. She has apparently left town and left no forwarding address." Ezra informed them.

"When did she leave?" Josiah asked.

"Apparently, within days of writing her account of the event. She told the woman next door that she had come into an inheritance and was vacating both her apartment and her position at the hospital. She was only twenty-three at the time of the incident and felt that she had some 'living' to do. Or, at least, that is what she told her neighbor."

"So, we have no witness to question? And we have no motive?" Nathan summed up the facts. Ezra's head moved up and down in agreement. "Then how are we going to find out why?"

Josiah spoke up. "With the technology today, it will be easy to prove that JD is not Mrs. Kimball's son. A DNA test will prove it quickly enough."

Ezra templed his hands in front of his face in thought. "It would appear that 'Mrs. Kimball', if indeed that is her name, must have an ulterior motive for this charade. I believe that we should try to discover what that motive is, as it would appear that the 'witness' has been bought and paid off. She is not important in the long term scheme of things."

The other two nodded in agreement. "Do you think there might be a clue at the hospital?" Nathan asked.

"There is that possibility. Josiah, there was a second name mentioned in Pratt's report, an orderly or something. You remember?"

Sanchez read the account he held in his hand. "Here it is. 'I have been plagued for years with this knowledge. At the urging of a dear friend and co-worker, Jeremy, I feel compelled to confess this thing.' She goes on about how she switched the boys by accident and did not realize until too late. They were apparently born around the same time and, in cleaning them up, she switched them. They were taken to the mothers that evening and then she was off the next two days. When she returned, she noticed that the boys were incorrectly identified on their bracelets, but by that time the mothers had bonded with the wrong child. She just kept her mouth shut about the mix up."

"No way. That story doesn't even ring true. Why wouldn't she just admit the error? Allowing the boys to go home with the wrong mother and no one noticing is hard to believe. I just got an uneasy feeling about this whole thing." Nathan sat back in his chair and laid his palms on the edge of the table, drumming his fingertips as he thought. "I think we need to go talk to this Jeremy person."

"Pray tell, how do you purpose to locate the gentleman, as we have no last name?" Ezra queried.

The question hung heavy at the table. The ringing on the phone interrupted their contemplations. Ezra reached out and picked up the instrument.

"Seven Investigations." Josiah and Nathan watched as Ezra's face slowly began to brighten. One eyebrow rose as a smile pulled at his mouth. "Yes, well, that is most interesting. We were just discussing this very thing. Would twenty minutes be sufficient time?" He looked from one to the other as he listened. "Perfect. We shall meet you there in half an hour."

He replaced the phone. "It seems that the illustrious Aaron Pratt never performed an investigation for one Deborah Kimball. In fact, he has never heard of the woman. It would appear that his secretary assisted her boy friend in the act of forgery with the man's letterhead. She claims that it was for a prank and never intended to perpetrate fraud. This same, aforementioned boyfriend is employed at Methodist Hospital. And his name, gentlemen, is Jeremy, Jeremy Crawford."

Ezra took note of the dangerous glint in both of the others eyes as the three of them rose as one and headed for the door.

The car pulled through the gate and moved up the drive to the garage. The blond parked and got out. The door to the house opened and a man joined her as she went to the back of the car. She was inserting the key when the man grabbed her arm.

"You put him in the trunk?" he snarled.

She looked at the man with distain and, after gently removing his hand; she turned the key and lifted the trunk lid. The boy was lying on his side with his knees tucked up to his chest. JD was the shortest member of the Seven’s office, but he looked tall in the cramped area of the trunk. The woman huffed as the man shoved her out of the way. He reached in the felt the pulse point at the base of the boy’s neck.

"Damn. Go in and get some help. NOW!"

The blond hesitated for a moment and then moved into the house, calling for the bodyguards she knew were close at hand. She instructed them that they were needed in the garage and then moved through the kitchen to stairs that led to the second floor.

Meanwhile in the garage, the man reached in and lifted the limp body out of the car trunk. He laid the boy on the cool garage floor. Grabbing the lapels of the leather motorcycle jacket, he quickly stripped the garment off the sweat soaked youth. Then he started on the boy’s boots. Two men came from in the house. The first man instructed them to carry the unconscious young man into the house and up to the ‘guest’ room.

"Be careful with him. I’ll be there in a moment." The man quickly left the garage and went to his room.

A few minutes later, he joined the men in the small bedroom. "Strip off his clothes. You can leave the underwear."

The man swabbed the boy’s arm and inserted the needle. Attaching the IV line, he adjusted the flow and added a drug to the IV. "Here, take these. You know how to use cold packs. Place them around him; knees, arm pits, back of the neck."

After the men finished, he waved the two bodyguards out and pulled a chair close to the bed. He sat down to keep a close watch on his patient.

+ + + + + + +

The six men arrived at the hospital within minutes of each other. After checking with personnel, they headed to the lab where Jeremy Crawford was a technician. Chris located the door and he pushed his way in followed by the others. As they entered, Ezra’s cell phone rang. He paused at the door as he reached into his pocket and pulled the instrument out.

A woman was sitting near the door and looked up as they entered. "You can’t come in here, gentlemen."

"We’re looking for Jeremy Crawford. We find him, we’ll leave." Chris told her. A movement to his left drew his attention. The man was trying for a door on the other side of the room, but Tanner and Sanchez were scanning the room when he made his move. Both men were moving almost before Crawford. The three fell into a tangle of arms and legs.

Nathan joined the skirmish as he reached down and pulled Crawford out by the ankle. Vin and Josiah pinned his arms and the man finally gave up his struggle. The men stood and jerked Crawford up. They continued on to the door the man was originally headed for. Buck followed as Ezra approached Larabee.

"Mr. Larabee, we have a problem." Chris frowned; his green eyes mere slits.

Ezra leaned in and spoke softly into Larabee’s ear. The blonde’s face darkened as the ex-CIA agent relayed the message. The two men moved out of the room to join their companions. They found the group gathered outside the door of the stairwell. Chris pointed to the door and the seven entered the cramped landing.

Chris rounded on the man immediately and slammed the man against the wall. The move was unexpected by the four men that had escorted Crawford out of the laboratory. Ezra stepped forward and held his hands up.

Chris placed his arm across the man’s throat. "Crawford, I don’t have time to argue or play nice. Why did you doctor up the report that says JD was switched at birth?"

Crawford’s eyes were wide as he stared at the man. His eyes flicked from man to man. "I didn’t doct.."

The words were cut off as Chris leaned in, his arm pressing harder against the man’s throat. "Try again."

Struggling to draw a breath, the man closed his eyes and nodded. Chris relaxed the pressure he had on Crawford’s neck. Drawing a shuddering breath, Jeremy began to talk. He talked for ten minutes and when he was through, the looks on the faces in front of him had him wishing he had never heard of Matthew Hemmings.

Chris was numb. He stood, trying to absorb the tale the man had told them. The men around him were as shocked as Larabee. The only reason the man was still standing was the fact that they were so stunned, they couldn’t move. Buck was the first to regain his senses. Luckily for Crawford, Nathan recovered almost as quickly and stepped between the two men.

"You son of a bitch! I could kill you! If anything happens to that boy, I will kill ya."

Buck screamed at the now cowering man. Nathan struggled to push an angry Buck back as he threatened the man.

Chris had gripped Crawford’s arm and now shoved him toward Sanchez. "Josiah, escort Mr. Crawford down to the security office and get them to hold him for the police. Nate, take Buck down to the truck."

Buck struggled against Jackson's grip, but found himself being propelled down the stairs. His heated words reverberated up the stairwell. "Dammit, Jackson, take your hands off me. I ain't through with that bastard."

"Yeah, you are. You need to simmer down, Buck. You ain't doing JD any good. Thought you said you was the silent partner in the firm. So, shut up and walk." The sound of a door slamming cut off any retort from Wilmington.

Chris looked from Standish to Tanner. "We need to find out where this Matthew Hemmings is. Crawford said he was a doctor. If he can shell out half a million dollars for information then he has a very rich patient."

"I concur with that assumption, Mr. Larabee. I have contacts in the legal system. If the man has indeed lost his license to practice medicine, we should be able to trace him to the site of his practice. That may afford us some information."

Ezra started down the stairs as he pulled out his cell and started dialing. Vin turned from watching him and looked at Chris. "Where do you want to start, Chris?"

"The money. A wire transfer that large should be easy to trace. Know anyone at Lexington Banc?"

The twinkle in Tanner's eye gave him away. "Might have some connections" That said, he started down the stairs.

Chris followed behind. "What's her name?"

"Jess. Miss Jessica Cain."

Chris shook his head. Between the seven men, there didn't seem to be a business in town that one of them did not know someone working there. Even JD knew people in odd places that had helped in solving cases. Thoughts of the young man had Chris saying a quick prayer for his safety.


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