Casey and JD sat on the small balcony that overlooked the street in front of the apartment JD shared with Buck Wilmington. The wine glasses chinked as they touched the rims together and then drank. The dark haired young man was turned slightly in his seat in and smiled as he looked at the profile of the young woman. Casey was a petite, dark haired beauty. Not the classical beauty that seemed to be on the front of the popular magazines, but a natural beauty. She wore very little makeup and her hair was usually pulled back in a ponytail or braids with bangs covering what she referred to as a high forehead. Casey Wells was about the most appealing woman JD had ever known.
The two young people had been seeing each other for over a year and their relationship was still in the tentative stage, neither of them looking for something more at the moment. Casey was busy with her studies at college in the veterinary field, while JD was settling into his position as an agent for the ATF. They had discussed their relationship before and decided that it was working well for them both. The young man chewed in the inside of his cheek as his hand fiddled with the box in his pocket.
Well, its now or never he thought to himself. Taking a quick drink of wine, he cleared his throat. "Casey?"
She turned inquisitive eyes toward him and he felt the heat rise in his face. Before he could say a word, the girl said, "JD, that was a wonderful meal, but I still feel bad about you having to cook on your birthday. Doesnt seem fair, somehow."
Smiling, he waved her off. "I like to cook. Sides, this way I get what I want, fixed the way I like it."
"So, where is Buck? I figured since it was your birthday, hed be right here, or have ya down at the saloon with the guys."
"Well, truth is, I asked him to go out tonight. He agreed to, only if they could all come back here and have cake later. So, the whole team will be here in a little while."
"Oh, well, maybe I should go ahead and give you your present." She went to stand only to stop as he placed his hand over hers.
"No, wait a minute, Case. I have something for you."
Casey pursed her lips. "You have something for me? Its your birthday, silly. Youre supposed to get the presents."
"I know. I just " He pulled the box out of his pocket as he continued. "I know we talked about neither of us wanting to get engaged or married just yet. You have your school and I well, Im just not ready to take care of someone again just yet, but I want to be more than friends. I want people to know that were more than friends."
He held out the box to her. As he pulled the lid open, he explained. "Its a friendship ring or a promise ring, if you like. I know its a step forward in the relationship, but I love you, Casey and I want to know that you feel the same way."
The girl just stared at the ring. It was silver with a wide band. Etched into the silver were different animals, each with tiny stone eyes. The design encompassed the entire band, with a variety of species around the circumference. Her mouth was tightly pinched as she looked at the ring.
JD sat with his heart in his throat as he waited for some kind of reaction. He was unprepared for the reaction when it finally came. Faster than he thought possible, she had doubled up her fist and punched him on the arm. He clutched the box as he rubbed the tender spot that throbbed to his heartbeat.
"OW! Dang it, Casey. Whyd ya go and do that?"
"Cause you're so stupid, JD. Its your birthday and youre supposed to get presents, not give em." But the sharpness of her words were forgotten when she gently reached out and took the box from his hand. "Its the most beautiful thing Ive ever seen, JD."
She held the box out as she asked, "Would you put it on my finger?"
He was still absently rubbing on his arm, but stopped as he took the box and removed the silver band. Taking her right hand, he slipped the ring onto her third finger. He could feel the tiny tremors as he held her small hand in his. After the ring was in place, he ran his finger over the silver and then leaned down and placed a kiss on the token.
Casey Wells had sat unmoving as JD slid the ring onto her finger and then kissed both the ring and her finger. As he sat up, she smiled and, standing, leaned over him and placed her lips on his as she wrapped her arms around his neck. They each tasted the wine on the others lips as the kiss deepened. Finally, she pulled away to stand, leaving them both giggling, slightly lightheaded from the intoxication of the wine and the kiss.
"I ah I better clean up. The guys will be here soon." JD stood up and picked up the glasses. He staggered toward the door backwards as Casey moved to follow him. They made quick work of clearing the table and, as JD rinsed the dry food from the plates and loaded the dishwasher, Casey went to the ladies room as she put it.
A couple of minutes later, JD was just drying his hands as she left the bathroom and moved around to the living room. The girl reached for the present she had placed on the couch as she arrived, but stopped as the doorbell ring.
"Ill get it. Buck probably wants to jump in and surprise you," she stated as she reached for the knob.
JD laughed as he began to wipe down the countertop. A gasp drew his attention back to the door. Casey moved back into the kitchen area as a large man with a gun entered the apartment, closing the door behind him. The young agent grabbed the girl by the shoulders and moved himself between her and the armed stranger.
"Hes not here. Can I help you with something?"
"I want Buck Wilmington."
"Hes out of town until Thursday" JD lied. "What do you want with Buck?"
"I want him dead." The venom in the mans voice had Casey quaking against JDs back.
"Why?" was the only thing JD could think to ask. He could not fathom anyone hating the good natured and jovial man.
"Why? Because he raped my sister."
JDs mouth dropped open before he could prevent it. "No way. Theres no way on Gods green earth that Buck raped someone."
"Are you saying my sister is lying, boy?"
"No, I Im not saying that. Im just telling you that Buck would never rape a woman. He just couldnt."
"JDs right, mister. Buck would never do something like that."
"Well, my sister was raped and she said he was the one that did it."
JD shook his head. "Whatd this guy look like?" He hoped that the man would realize his mistake when he saw a picture of Buck, but those hopes were soon dashed.
"Hes a big man, six two or three, dark, wavy hair and a mustache. He talked all sweet and charming, but when he got her away from people, he turned all mean and started slapping her around and then raped her."
"You have the wrong guy. Buck Wilmington would never, ever, hit a woman. He wouldnt rape someone."
The man moved closer, forcing the young people to retreat to a corner near the refrigerator. Before JD could react, the much larger man cuffed him across the mouth.
"If my sister says that he raped her, then he did and hes going to pay for it."
JD wiped his hand across his mouth and saw the blood smeared across the back. His eyes hardened as he glared at the man. "He isnt here," JD said slowly.
Listening to what the young man was saying, the intruder glanced around nervously and chewed on his lower lip. "You two dont move." The man moved away from the couple and paced across the living room.
JD could feel Caseys hands clutching his shirt in the back. He brought his arm up and around to draw her to his chest. He held her close and rested his chin in her hair as he watched the man. The guy obviously had no plan. If JD could keep him talking, the guys would show up soon and they could take him down. But he wanted to get Casey out of the apartment. The young agent watched as the man seemed to be talking to himself. JD got an uneasy feeling that they were dealing with an unbalanced man and he knew he had to get the girl out of danger.
"Casey, Im going to distract him and I want you to go for the door." He felt her tense against his chest. "Dont argue with me. Dont say anything. Just do it. Promise me."
Her acknowledgement was a quick nod of her head. He tightened his grip for a moment. As he released her, he lowered his mouth to her ear, "I love you, Casey."
He stepped away, concentrating on the man, confident that the girl would do as he asked. "Mister?" The man whirled around; his eyes wide as if he had only just became aware of the young man, the gun wavering in front of him. JD approached with his hands held out, away from his body. "Buck is a federal agent. If your sister reports this, there will be an investigation. Thats what she needs to do. Buck would want to get this straightened out." Out of the corner of his eye, the intruder saw movement. Before he could register that the girl was moving, the young man struck him.
JD had seen the mans eyes move and he took the opportunity to make his move. Both hands gripped the mans wrist as the gun moved to bear on the girl. Bringing the arm down, he threw his weight against the mans chest to knock him off balance. As the men struggled across the floor, JD was relieved to hear the front door open. His relief was short lived as the man recovered and used his strength to push JD back.
The two men staggered across the room, still fighting for control of the gun. JD felt his knees connect with the coffee table and he fell backwards, dragging the gunman with him. They fell between the table and the couch with the gunman on top. Feeling the heavy weight pinning him to the ground, JD scrambled his feet to push his way out. Before he could get free though, he felt a punch to his stomach and heard a muffled pop. All the air seemed to rush out of his lungs as the strength abandoned his muscles. He had a moment before the pain registered and washed over him. With a groan, he collapsed onto the floor, unconscious.
The gunman pushed himself up and stared, first at the gun and then the boy that lay between his knees. He shuddered as he tossed the gun away. The sound of the door slamming against the wall brought him back to reality. Hands gripped his shirt and dragged him backwards. He looked up into flashing dark blue eyes above a dark mustache. Wilmington he thought to himself, The kid lied.
The dark blue eyes disappeared to be replaced by light blue ones. These eyes were deep-set in a face framed by gray hair and an expansive jaw. He was then sliding across the wood floor as legs moved past. Someone flipped him over onto his stomach and snapped handcuffs on his wrists before he even had time to draw a breath. He felt someone standing at his side, so he remained still as people moved around him.
+ + + + + + +
Buck shoved Vin as the elevator doors opened. "You got him what? Junior, whatever possessed you to get that?"
"He told me he wanted one, but just never got around to getting one."
"Well, hell, Tanner, theres probably a reason he never bothered." Buck quipped. He stepped out into the hall, laughing, only to be hit by a small body. He wrapped his arms around the trembling Casey as she staggered back. Glancing down the hall, he looked down at the girl.
"JD help gun." Her words came tumbling out as she tried to draw air in.
Bucks face hardened as he moved the girl toward the teams sharpshooter and started down the hall cautiously. Four men followed closely behind. They were only steps away from the partially open door when they heard the shot. Buck broke into a run. He burst through the door to see a man straddling JDs torso. The man was tossing the gun to the side as the door slammed against the wall. Buck came up behind him as the mans head started to turn. Wilmington grabbed the back of the gunmans shirt and pulled him away from the kid. Brown eyes stared up as Buck passed the man off to Josiah.
Wilmington was aware of Nathan moving past him as he grabbed the couch and tossed it out of the way. Chris had done the same with the coffee table, giving Nathan room to squat down next to the injured agent.
Nathan pulled open JDs shirt to find the bullet had entered low on the boys left side. Reaching underneath, Nathan searched for an exit wound. He shook his head as he concentrated. Nothing he thought to himself.
"Nate, theres lot of blood over here." Buck had taken a position opposite Nathan.
The medic leaned over and put his hand under JD. He found what he was looking for.
"The gun must have been between them and pointed at a angle, across JDs body." Nathan talked as he worked.
Chris stood over the three men, his hands clenched at his sides. Damn, how did this happen? Its the kids birthday for Christs sake. Why did this happen? the team leader wondered as he glared at the form huddled on the floor at Sanchezs feet. Feeling a presence at his shoulder, he turned to see Ezra standing next to him.
"I have called the local constabulary. They, as well as an ambulance, are in route."
Nathan glanced over at Casey, standing in the doorway with Vin's arm around her shoulder. He looked back at Ezra and quietly asked, "They say how long?"
None of the three men gathered around the boy missed the urgent tone in the medic's voice. Buck glanced up at the sound Nathan's voice, but looked back down quickly when he saw the fear in the dark eyes. Wilmington bent low over JD's head. "Don't worry, son. You'll be fine. You just hang on for me, for Casey. You don't worry about nothing, except hanging on."
"I'll see if I can ascertain their estimated arrival time." Ezra stepped away as he brought the phone up and dialed.
"Nathan?" Chris left the question unasked.
"He's bleeding bad, real bad. If it is going to take very long, I think we should take him in the Ram."
Buck's head bent lower. He didn't want to see the fear in Nathan's eyes again. He continued to talk to the unconscious youth. When he felt a hand grip his shoulder, he knew without looking it was Larabee. Chris gave a strong squeeze then stepped away.
Ezra approached, a look of relief on his face. "They state the ambulance is a block away." Listening, they heard the warbling siren as the ambulance pulled up outside.
Nathan continued to apply pressure to the wounds as his head dropped. "Thank you, Lord" he breathed softly.
After what seemed like hours to Wilmington, the EMT's and police entered the room. The two uniformed officers moved to Josiah's side and took custody of the gunman. Larabee stepped out of the way as Nathan filled the EMT's in on JD's condition. Buck only moved from the boy's side to squat on his knees at JD's head. He continued to talk softly, trying to keep the youth grounded to his voice and to life.
The young agent's condition was assessed and an IV started after conferring with the hospital. Buck supported JD's head, as the two techs and Nathan lifted him and placed him on the stretcher. The four left the room and headed for the elevator. Nathan waited as the EMT's entered the elevator along with Wilmington. Chris and Nathan escorted Vin and Casey down the stairs after informing the police officers they could talk to the girl after a doctor had checked her.
They arrived on the ground floor moments after the elevator and walked quickly behind. JD was loaded into the ambulance and Buck jumped in. Chris and his group jumped into the Dodge Ram and moved into the street following the emergency vehicle.
+ + + + + + +
In the apartment, Josiah Sanchez and Ezra Standish were attempting to fill in the blanks of what had transpired. A wallet revealed the gunman to be a Randy Davis, thirty-one years old from Los Angeles, California. The man had not said a word to anyone. Finally, as the officers were reading him his rights, Davis spoke up.
"If I have to go to jail, so does the other guy. This is all his doing anyway." the man yelled belligerently.
"The 'other guy' is going to the hospital, thanks to you. He might not even survive." Josiah stood with his fists clenched at his sides.
"Not the kid. The big guy, Wilmington."
"And why, pray tell, would Mr. Wilmington need to be incarcerated?" Ezra questioned.
"Because he raped my sister."
Both ATF agents were stunned at the accusation. They stood slack-jawed, much as Dunne had stood earlier in the evening.
"That's a bold-faced lie. Why would you think that Buck raped someone?"
"Because she told me so. They met at a club and he took her to a motel and beat her up and then raped her."
"And Mr. Wilmington told the young woman his name before this alleged assault?"
"Yes, sir, he sure did." Davis confirmed.
Ezra stood with his hands on his hips, one eyebrow cocked up. He slowly turned to Sanchez, shaking his head. "Well, Mr, Sanchez, it would appear that our fellow team member has taken leave of his senses. I assumed that the man, as injudicious as he may at times to be, would have enough sense of self-preservation to not announce his true identity to the person he planned to assault."
"Mister, I'm tired of being called a liar, or worse, that you think my sister is a lair."
"Then, sir, I would suggest you get your facts in order before you start making false accusations against innocent citizens. The very idea that Mr. Wilmington would, or even could, resort to violence to have intercourse with a woman is repugnant. Not only to Mr. Sanchez, and myself but to the gentleman in question as well. The man of which you speak would rather mutilate himself than perform such a heinous act." Ezra held up his hand as Davis' mouth opened. "While, I know that no one truly knows another's inner self, I have the ultimate confidence in regards to this area of our notorious 'ladies mans' personality. He could no more assault a woman than he could fly. Of this, I am certain."
Josiah had not spoken a word, but he's eyes conveyed the same message. "Where is your sister? Has she filed a complaint with the proper authorities?"
Davis hung his head. "She's afraid. Wilmington told her that he worked for the government and he would make it rough for her if she went to the cops."
Ezra's nostrils flared. He knew it wasn't Buck that had committed the crime, but the rapist had a working knowledge of the man. His green eyes flashed as he considered the possibilities.
Josiah asked gently. "Where is..."
"Jess. Jessica Davis." Davis brought his eyes up. Tears brimmed in the dark orbs. "She goes to the Woman's College at the University of Denver. She's studying for her Bachelor of Arts in Communication. She's just a kid, twenty-five. She didn't deserve this."
Josiah's eyes narrowed, but his voice remained gentle, as he spoke. "And the boy that you shot just turned twenty-two, today. He didn't deserve this, either."
Davis sagged at the knees, "I never meant to shoot anyone. I only wanted to scare Wilmington. I wanted him to confess to what he did."
Josiah nodded and the two officers escorted the man out of the apartment. The two agents stood silent for a few moments. Josiah's trance was broken when Ezra took off his jacket, carefully folded it and laid it on the table.
"What are you doing, Ezra?"
"I would imagine that if there is any news to be gleaned at this time, it would not be good. I plan to bring the dwelling back to the condition it undoubtedly, was in before this evenings happenings. I would not want Mr. Wilmington to return to the grisly evidence of young John's assault. Especially if "
When Ezra turned to gaze at the profiler, Josiah saw the fear in the undercover agent's eyes. The older man wanted to say something to help comfort the man, but that same fear resided in his own heart. Josiah settled for placing a hand on Standish's shoulder. "I'm sure Buck will be most appreciative, Ezra. What can I do to assist you?"
The two men set about cleaning the floor and setting the furniture back. Neither man gave a thought to the fact that they were destroying a crime scene.
+ + + + + + +
They were only minutes away from the hospital, but it seemed like an eternity to Wilmington. JD had come to with a start, startling both men in the back of the ambulance. The injured agent had sat up and called out "Casey" several times before Buck could get him calmed down enough to understand that the girl was uninjured and in the protective custody of Chris Larabee and Vin Tanner. That information seemed to satisfy the boy's concerns for her well-being and he relaxed back onto the stretcher.
JDs eyes were open, but not focused. After blinking repeatedly, he gave up on focusing and called to his roommate. "Buck?" A shadow appeared from the top of his head.
Buck leaned over, his hands on each side of the boys face. Wilmingtons thumbs stroked the strained features as he acknowledged the call. "Hey, kid. Im right here. You just relax. Were almost there." Buck glanced at the EMT and the man looked down, away from the two agents. "Youll be fine, JD. Just relax and be quiet for me, okay, kid?"
"Im sorry, Buck. I tried to tell im. He wouldn't believe me." JDs words were slurred and slowly spoken, but he continued to try to explain. "He wouldn't believe Casey."
At the girl's name, JD frowned. "Are you sure Casey's all right?"
"Yes, JD, I'm sure. Now you save your strength and stop talking. Okay?"
JD nodded, but he continued talking anyway. "He was gonna shoot you, Buck. I was afraid you would come home. He wanted to hurt you." The last words were spoken softly as the boy drifted into unconsciousness.
Buck sat, still holding the boy's face in his hands, but his mind was replaying the words over in his head. 'He was gonna shoot you; he wanted to hurt you.' The gunman wasn't looking for the kid. He wasnt the target. JD had been hurt trying to defend him. Buck grew dizzy as the words rang in his ears. ' shoot you; wanted to hurt you; you you'. This was his fault. But why? He hadn't recognized the man. Granted, he hadn't spared a moment to really look at the gunman. He only knew that he had to get to JD and the man was in his way, but there was nothing familiar about the man that Buck had noticed in that brief glance.
He felt a hand on his arm and looked up into the eyes of the EMT, Josh. "Sir, we're pulling up at the ER, now."
Buck nodded in acknowledgement and then turned his attention back to the young man. 'Oh, JD. I'm sorry. I brought this down on ya. Please, forgive me.' As if the boy had heard the words, lids fluttered and opened to reveal clear hazel eyes. JD smiled briefly.
"It's not your fault, Buck" he whispered. Then his eyes slid closed and the face between his hands went slack.
Buck held his breath as Josh checked the monitors.
"He's out again" was all the man said.
Buck released the breath he was holding in a half-sob of relief. He felt the ambulance stop and, almost instantly, the back doors were thrown open and they were headed in through the automatic doors of the ER. He walked alongside the stretcher as far as they would allow him. A nurse eventually stepped in front of him and placed a hand on his chest. Pointing to a waiting area, she firmly instructed him to wait and someone would be in with forms to fill out.
As much as Wilmington wanted to protest, he knew he had to wait. Again. He moved slowly into the room to find it empty, thankfully. He paced around the room until he finally came to a stop in front of the window and stood gazing across the city. Time slipped away and his attention was drawn back to the room behind him by the sound of people entering. Chris led the way, followed by Vin and Casey. He moved across the room, but before he reached the trio, Casey broke from Vin's grasp and ran up to the mustached man, wrapping her arms around his waist. Buck returned the embrace by enveloping the petite girl with his long arms.
"Shhh, little girl. Everythingll be all right. You just relax and let 'ole Buck do all the worryin', okay?"
He continued to support the girl as she clung to him and wept. Wilmington looked over at the two men as they stood in the doorway. With a nod from Chris, Buck moved to the chairs and sat down with the girl still hanging on. Buck continued to talk quietly and gently to the shattered young woman.
After several minutes, she pulled away and wiped the tears from her face, turning away until she felt in control of her emotions. Squaring her shoulders, she looked at each man in turn. "I'm okay, now. I assume you want to hear about what happened?"
Chris and Vin had taken seats across from Buck and the girl. Larabee leaned forward, nodding.
"Only if you feel up to it, Casey. Josiah and Ezra can fill us in when they get here."
"No, no, I need to tell you." She turned to Buck. "JD and I never believed what that man was saying. JD tried to tell 'im, but he wouldn't listen."
"JD tried to tell me. The guy was looking for me?"
The statement brought a quick look from the other two men. Buck shrugged at the question in their eyes. Casey's nodded.
"We were cleaning up after supper. JD was expecting you guys at any time, so when he knocked on the door, we figured that it was ya'll, wanting to surprise JD. But when I opened the door, this man was standing there with a gun. I ran over to JD. He was still in the kitchen. He stepped in front of me and the guy asked where you were, Buck." She looked at Wilmington. She could see that he was upset. "JD wouldn't blame you, Buck."
Wilmington's eyes closed as he shook his head. As he opened his mouth, the girl reached out and took his large hand in both of hers. "Don't you start, Buck. JD wouldn't want that." She watched his face. The pain of guilt was evident. "Buck? Promise me."
A weak imitation of his smile appeared on his face. "I'll try, darlin'. I'll try."
Patting his hand, but not releasing it, she continued. "JD asked the man what he wanted and he told us that you " She paused and clenched Buck's hand. "We did not believe him for one second, so you don't get all worked up."
Buck frowned at her request. But he slowly nodded in agreement. Casey saw Chris stand and move to a position behind Wilmington.
Taking a deep breath, the young woman told them, "He told us that you beat and raped his sister." Buck's reaction was instantaneous.
He jumped to his feet, oblivious to the fact that he almost yanked Casey off the chair. His mouth opened in protest, but no words came out, so he stood open-mouthed and speechless.
Chris had grabbed his friend's shoulder as he stood, and now steadied the man. Pushing gently, he guided Wilmington back into the chair. A strong squeeze drew the dumb-founded man's attention to the blonde. "Buck? Let's let Casey finish." Buck nodded quickly as his went back to the girl.
"I'm sorry, Casey. I didn't hurt ya, did I?"
"No," she shook her head. "I think I scratched you, though."
Buck looked down at the red welt across the back of his hand. "Hell, hurt my self worse drinking Vin's coffee." He reached over the brushed a stray lock of hair from her face. "You go on and finish your story."
"Not much left to tell. We tried to argue with him, convince him that he was wrong. JD had told the man that you wouldn't be home until Thursday, so the guy starts pacing around and JD said he was going to distract him and that I should get out." Tears started to fall. "He made me promise. I didn't want to leave him, but he made me promise."
"Darlin', don't you worry. Our boy's tough. He'll pull through this." Buck wrapped his arms around the girl as he spoke. "You don't worry that pretty little head about him. He'll be fine."
Casey leaned into the man and allowed his words to soothe her. She knew that the big-hearted man was as scared as she was about losing the boy, but his words comforted them both. She relaxed into the arms of JD's 'big brother' and felt Buck's heart as it thudded beneath her ear. She could almost believe that he was that confidant that JD would be all right.
When Nathan entered the room half an hour later, he found Casey still engulfed within Bucks arms. Vin sat across from them, slouched down in a chair with his legs stretched out in front of him and crossed at the ankles. His arms were folded over his chest and his face was hidden beneath the bill of a ball cap pulled low over his eyes. Chris stood at the window, one hand on his hip and the other one pressed against the window frame supporting his weight. Nathan entered quietly, but all three men turned their eyes in his direction. He walked over and fell into a chair where he scrubbed his palms across his face to try and revitalize himself.
"Ive been with the doctor. He let me go in while they examined him. His condition is pretty good-blood pressure is steady, blood loss is minimal. They stabilized him and now theyre on the way up to surgery to open im up and see what damage the bullet did."
Buck felt Casey tremble at the words. He stroked her back and spoke quietly as he told her, "Dont you pay no attention to Nathan. They'll fix im right up."
Nathan watched the man comfort the girl and felt guilty at the bluntness of his statement. "Im sorry, Casey. I didnt realize you were listening."
She sat up and straightened her hair. "Thats okay, Nathan. I understand. I want to be a vet, after all, but when you hear it in reference to your boyfriend, it just sounds awful."
Jackson nodded. "There are more delicate ways of phrasing it. Ill try to do better."
Chris had joined the others and now stood over them. Glancing at his watch, he wondered aloud, "Whats keeping Josiah and Ezra?"
Before anyone could speculate, two men entered the room. They immediately headed across the room to the small group. The smaller man held out his hand as he approached Chris. "Larabee."
Chris took the offered hand and shook it firmly. "Craig, what are you doing on nights?"
"Oh, just filling in for some guys on vacation." The man turned and greeted each of the men before stopping at the girl. Buck spoke up.
"Casey, this is Craig Turner. Hes a detective with the police."
She nodded as she extended her arm. "Nice to meet you, Detective."
He smiled warmly and indicated the young man next to him. "This is my partner, Tom Bracken. Tom, these are Chris Larabee, Vin Tanner, Nathan Jackson, and Buck Wilmington. And Miss Casey "
"Wells." Buck provided.
The two detectives drew up chairs and sat down. "Buck, sorry to hear about what happened at your place. I hope the boy will be all right."
"Actually, they just took him up to surgery." Nathan offered. Glancing at his watch, he continued. "Doctor Cope said it would be a couple of hours before he could let us know anything."
Craig Turner nodded. "Miss Wells, were investigating the shooting that occurred at the Wilmington apartment. Do you feel up to telling us what happened?" Casey nodded at the man, but was once again gripping Bucks hand.
Detective Bracken pulled a small camcorder out of his pocket along with a notepad. Holding the small video recorder up, he asked, "Do you mind?"
"No. Of course not."
Bracken started the recorder and Turner began. "Miss Wells, in your own words, just tell us what transpired this evening at the residence of Mr. Dunne and Mr. Wilmington."
Once again Casey repeated the story that she had told Buck, Chris and Vin. Nathan, having not heard the entire story was slack jawed at the accusations made by the gunman.
"Did he state if his sister had reported the assault?"
"No. JD was telling him that she needed to do that when I ran for the door. I dont think she had."
Turner nodded as he listened. "We read the officers incident report. Mr. Davis, hes the man that shot Mr. Dunne, states that the man that assaulted his sister threatened her if she reported the attack to the police. Using his position with the government to reinforce that threat was his trump card, in essence telling her that she wouldnt get anywhere if she did report it."
Chris had been sitting quietly and now leaned forward. "Craig, have you contacted the sister yet?"
"Yes. Shes on her way to the station now. Which brings us to the second reason that we are here." The detective turned his attention back to the Wilmington. "Buck, we need for you to come down to the station. Miss Davis has agreed to file a report, though with no physical evidence, we wont be able to make much of a case when we find the right guy."
Feeling Casey tighten her grip, Buck looked down and smiled. "Dont you fret, little girl. I have no intention of leaving just yet." He turned back to the two detectives. "I cant leave until we get some word on my teammate. After I know that hes okay, Ill be down."
"We would like to get this over as soon as possible. The young woman in question is, of course, under tremendous stress as result of the two assaults. I would like to make this as easy for her as I possibly can."
Buck was shaking his head. "Unless I am under arrest, Im not leaving."
Vin had yet to enter into the conversation, but in a soft, accented tone he asked, "Why dont you tape im? Let her look at the tape and then if you still need Buck to come down, you could call."
Chris nodded at the suggestion. "Sounds good to me."
Turner sat for a minute and finally he nodded. "I understand about wanting to stay until you can talk to Dunne. Theres no reason why we cant have her look at the tape. If she clears you, you wont have to leave the hospital."
"Thanks, Craig. I really appreciate it. What do you want me to do?"
Bracken glanced around the room. "Why dont we move over to the corner and shoot?"
Buck patted Caseys hand as she watched him stand. The two detectives moved across the room along with Wilmington.
"Mr. Wilmington, if you will just stand here, I'll run about two minutes of tape."
Buck nodded, looking a bit uncomfortable as he waited. Bracken nodded as he started taping. "You want me to say anything?"
Turner nodded. "Sure. How about name, your job, stuff along those lines."
Buck's eyes flicked to meet Chris'. The blonde was frowning, his head lowered as he watched the proceedings through his upper lashes. They had known each other long enough for Wilmington to know Chris was angry. The man's very stance was confrontational. Buck drew his attention back to the job at hand. He prayed that the woman could be able to clear him by the tape alone. He knew he would have to be dragged away from the hospital if she could not.
Clearing his throat, he began. "My name is Buck Wilmington. I am an agent with the bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. I live with Agent John Dunne in Denver where we both work." Buck paused and looked at Detective Turner. "I don't know what to say. I'm not sure "
Turner nodded and placed his hand on Bracken's arm. "I think we have enough. Let's go with this and if I need more, I know where to find you."
The two detectives stood with their heads together, talking, as Buck moved back to his former position next to Casey. Chris stood next to the shaken agent, a reassuring hand on the man's shoulder. The approach of the detectives drew everyone's attention.
Turner stood with his hands in his pockets, his jacket wrinkled beneath them. "We'll be going now. I'll call back as soon as the young woman has been interviewed and viewed the tape."
Larabee stepped away from Buck's shoulder. "If you don't mind, I'll be meeting you there. I'd like to watch the interview." Chris' mouth was set in a strong and determined-looking straight line. He would not take 'no' for an answer.
Detective Turner rolled his lip in and chewed on it for a moment. "Sure, I don't see why not." The two detectives said their goodbyes, expressing their best for JD's recovery, and headed out the door.
Vin stood and joined Chris. "You want company?" A quick nod and the two headed out.
Buck felt Casey tense and looked to see her staring at the door. "Hey, " he began, " something wrong?"
"They don't even know if JD is going to live." She whispered.
Buck clasped her shoulders tightly and whispered into her ear. "Baby girl, they're so scared they can't stand it. The opportunity to be distracted is exactly what they needed." He relaxed his hold enough to turn her face up to him with one finger and he smiled at her. "Don't you think for one minute that them two don't love that boy. They just aren't built for waitin', that's our job. You, me and Nate. That's what we do."
She reached up and placed her hand on the man's cheek. "JD is so lucky to have found you."
Taking her hand in his, Buck kissed her palm. "And I'll say the same to you. You two make a hell of a couple." Buck released her and stood up, holding out his hands to her. "Now, how about we go up to surgery and get to work waiting for the doctor?"
She nodded and took the offered hands. Together with Nathan, they headed upstairs to await word on JD.
+ + + + + + +
Across town an hour later, Chris and Vin were standing behind a mirrored glass, listening as Turner and Bracken questioned Jessica Davis.
Turner sat across the table from the young woman, his back to the glass. Bracken stood next to the TV/VCR stand. He had already slipped the tape into the machine and now stood ready, remote in hand.
"Miss Davis, I appreciate your coming down at such a late hour."
Jessica sat tearing at a tissue as she listened. Blond hair framed a slender face, bruises were still evident on her pale features. Her brown eyes were red-rimmed and shadowed by dark circles. The woman wiped at the tears that dripped from her chin. "I I'm so sorry about what happened. I never Randy has never done a violent thing in his life."
She dropped her head and her shoulders shook as she wept. "I should have never said anything to him. I would never have said anything if I thought he would go after the man. I didn't know he had even come up here."
Raising her head, she looked at the detective as she stated, "He's a good man. He's always protected me, he just always does." Shaking her head, she continued. "I'm so sorry."
Detective Turner handed a tissue to the woman. As she took it, he told her, "Mr. Davis has stated that he had no intention of shooting anyone. That it was an accident. Your brother is very upset about the incident."
"He I love my brother. The idea that he would do something so stupid."
"Miss Davis, why didn't you report the attack? I understand from your brother that it occurred last week."
She brought her eyes up to meet his. "I was scared." Her voice dropped as she spoke. "He said he was a Federal agent and could make trouble for me. He was so charming at first." She shuddered at the memories.
"We have a tape we would like you to see. Would you be willing to watch it for us?"
"Will it help my brother?"
"Truthfully? No. But it may help you."
The young woman chewed on her lip before finally nodding.
Turner nodded to Bracken and the young detective started the tape. The screen flickered and then snapped into focus. It revealed Buck Wilmington, standing nervously in frame. 'My name is Buck Wilmington. I am '
Chris never took his eyes off the young woman as the interview progressed. He watched even as the screen flickered. When the picture appeared, Jessica Davis had no reaction to the image. When the blue eyes widened at the introduction, Chris knew she had never seen Wilmington before. He relaxed his stance, unaware that he had been tense. Knowing Buck, he was certain that the accusation was false, but he was not certain that it was not a setup to distract the team or seek revenge. Chris breathed a sigh of relief that it was truly a case of mistaken identity that hopefully would be resolved quickly.
Inside the room, her reaction was fast and certain. "That's not right. He's not Wilmington" the young woman stated. She turned to look at the detective. "That's not the man that attacked me."
Turner and Bracken looked at each other. Bracken stopped the tape as Turner turned back to the woman. "Miss Davis, you're positive that this is not the man?"
"Yes. I mean he looks a little like the guy, but it's not him. What's this all about?"
The door opened to reveal Chris Larabee and Vin Tanner. Turner stood as they entered. "Miss Davis, this is Chris Larabee and Vin Tanner. They're ATF agents. Mr. Wilmington works with them."
"Miss Davis, I'm sorry for what happened to you. You are certain about the name the man gave you?"
She nodded. "Yes. We were joking around about it, you know-rhymes and stuff. But I am certain. Oh, he gave me a card. Hold on a minute." She fumbled with her purse for a minute and finally withdrew a small white card, handing it to Chris.
He studied it for a moment, held it up for Vin to see, and then handed it to Turner. The detective took the card and read it.
"It's not real. Our cards " Chris removed one from his jacket pocket. " our cards are embossed-the seal is stamped, not printed. See the difference?"
Turner held both cards in his hands and compared them. "The paper is totally different also. The texture is coarser and light-weight."
"So, is my man clear, detective?"
"Yes, I believe that he is."
Chris looked at the young woman. "Buck Wilmington works under me. But more than that, he is a very old and dear friend. I intend to make it my goal to find and convict the man claiming to be Agent Wilmington for the crimes he has committed against you. Good day, Miss Davis."
Chris turned and headed out the door. A quick nod was Vin's parting gesture as he followed in Larabee's wake. The young Texan quickly caught his friend and boss. As they waited for the elevator, Tanner asked without looking at Larabee. "You knew he didn't do it."
"Why so tense then?"
"Innocent people go to jail everyday." Chris glanced at the sharp profile of the sharpshooter. "Besides, I need him. Here. Doing his job. Watching our backs. If he went to jail for assault and rape, we might as well shoot him, cause he'd be dead inside. Buck deserves more, much more than that."
Vin graced the blonde with a quick sideways glance and smiled. "Yeah, I'm kind 'a use to having 'im around too."
The elevator dinged and the two men stepped in. A moment later, the doors slid quietly together.
"Wipe that grin off your face, ya damn, fool Texan."
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