"Little Britches" (ATF) Universe
This continues straight on from Promises to Keep, and will make very little sense without having first read that. To everybody who emailed me to let me know they liked Promises -- thank you! I guarantee this would have been longer in the works if I hadn't known you were waiting! Notes etc re research apply as before. Oh, and my apologies to Jamestown Community Hospital.
2 pm, Jamestown Community Hospital
He was warm. Warm and dry. Something soft and cozy was wrapped around him and it smelled safe, like aftershave and sweat. Like home. Dimly he could hear a steady, muffled thumping sound, and burrowed closer to the warm, firm pillow under his ear, smiling contentedly. Gradually he noticed other sounds, intriguing beeps, people talking at a distance and further away other children laughing. He tried to turn over and something stopped him.
"Stay still, JD," Chris's voice rumbled right above his other ear and he realised that he was lying squished up close to somebody. Someone who smelled like Chris. He rubbed his face against him affectionately and opened his eyes.
He found himself staring straight at a wall. He wriggled until he could see more, pulling on the grip around him until he could see the man holding him.
"Wha' ya doing here, Chris?" he asked, not awake enough to be polite, and yawned.
"I'm hanging onto you, trouble, making sure you don't go anywhere." Chris said lightly.
"Oh. *Oh*." His eyes went wide as memory flooded back. "Chris, Chris, didya shoot them? Didya?" He twisted round to peer up into Chris's face, and found him smiling faintly down at him.
"Shoot who?" Chris lifted him until he was sitting upright on his lap, wrapped up safely in his arms.
"The bad guys that stole me and made me talk to a camera and left me in a *dungeon*." JD bounced once, and stopped. "Ow! That hurt."
"I did say to keep still." Chris reminded him. "Have you seen your leg?"
"I broke it," JD pronounced dismally, staring down at the blue cast encasing his lower right leg. "Bummer."
"John Daniel, where did you pick that up?"
JD bit his lip. "I'll put a quarter in the jar," he said meekly, raising every one of Chris's finely honed parenting hackles.
"Um. One of the bad guys said it?"
"If you can't tell me the truth, young man "
"When did you see Buffy?"
JD turned incautious eyes around the room until they lit on Uncle Ezra.
"I have no idea what he is talking about," Uncle Ezra lied with conviction. "Anyone for chocolate?"
"Me! Mememememe!" JD shouted.
Uncle Ezra left in a hurry.
"I don't think chocolate is such a good idea, kiddo." Chris warned, tucking him back in close, and pulling the blankets up around him even though he felt warm enough already. He pushed at the blankets until they slid sideways off him, and Chris sighed, and patiently tugged them back onto his legs. "Don't do that. You need to stay warm."
"Oh, it won't hurt him, Chris," Nathan said cheerfully. He lifted all but one of the blankets and folded them neatly at the end of the bed and winked at JD. "Bit of chocolate might even help."
"Traitor," Chris muttered, and JD giggled.
"Where's Da?" he asked a moment later, the giggles fleeing as if they had never been.
Chris's arms tightened around him, and he twisted until he could look back up into his eyes. "He's still in court, remember? But we're all here, and we're going to stay until he can come, or until we can all go home."
"Oh." His head drooped as he thought about that for a moment or two. He didn't see the look of pride on Chris's face when he gave a little sigh and added, "Okay."
"How are you, JD?" Uncle Josiah asked, hunkering down to smile at him.
"Fine," he said with a shrug. He closed his eyes and relaxed into Chris's grip until another thought hit him and he jerked upright. "Dad, where's Vin? Did they get Vin too? Where's Vin?" He looked around wildly but couldn't see his big brother. "Did they hurt him? Vin!"
"JD--" Chris tried to calm him.
Chris held JD firmly and shook him slightly. "Calm down! Vin's fine."
"Where is he?" He was still panicky, his eyes full of fearful anticipation.
"He's fine. I promise you."
Uncle Nathan leaned in to join the conversation, "JD, Vin's at home. Mrs. Potter's watching him, and there's a couple of nice police officers there too to make sure he stays okay."
JD looked from his uncle to Chris, who nodded, and JD looked back at Nathan. "Are you sure?"
"Pinkie swear," Nathan held out his little finger, and JD hooked his own around it.
"You're sure you're sure?"
"Yes, I'm sure I'm sure." he said with a gentle smile.
"Okay then," he subsided back into Chris's hold. He pinched a piece of shirt and twisted it between his fingers. "I just thought they might've tooken--"
"Taken," Chris corrected quietly.
"Taken him too and not told me or somefin."
"No. They only took you."
"Taked," JD murmured, and Chris shook his head.
"Okay." He nodded and repeated, "Vin's okay?"
"Vin's missing you, but he's fine." JD frowned and Chris growled a little, "I mean, Vin is really fine, instead of *your* version of fine which includes broken bones apparently."
JD giggled, and quietly settled again.
"Wanna go home," he whispered after a little while. The arms around him tightened and he felt a kiss pressed into his hair, and Chris whispered back, "Me too, kiddo."
Sanchez sighed and shifted again in the uncomfortable little chair, watching his stone cold boss cuddle a small, drug-fogged boy. After all the rushing around this seemed almost anti-climactic. Not that he was ungrateful that the boy was safe and relatively speaking, well. His boss looked up and caught his expression as he tried to find a comfortable position on the chair whilst not disturbing the kid.
"Why don't you go talk to the police?" Chris suggested, his eyes shrewdly assessing his state of mind. "See if they need a hand." He threw a glance at Standish, dozing in a chair the far side of the room, arranged to catch maximum sun. "You can take him with you." He jerked a thumb at Standish. "He needs the exercise."
Josiah grinned and nodded. He stood and stretched, then reached a long arm across to haul Standish off the bed. The man came up fighting, but Josiah dodged easily, and nodded to Larabee.
"We'll let you know what we find." He virtually dragged Ezra from the room, who yawned hugely, and mumbled something about coffee.
"You can have hospital coffee now or police coffee shortly," Josiah told him callously. Ezra stopped at the next vending machine and nursed the burnt black brew until they reached the Jamestown police HQ.
"Agents Sanchez and Standish, to speak to the officers investigating the Dunne kidnapping," Josiah produced his badge but the man on the desk barely looked at it before waving them through. He shook his head in wonder. In Denver there would have been at least a ten minute wait to confirm their identity, and the mere fact of their lack of an appointment might well have held them up another hour.
"Third floor, and second left into the main office. You're looking for Brown. Or Caverty, if he's not around."
"Thank you, officer," Ezra drawled, and stumbled after Josiah when he tugged hard on his arm reprovingly.
"Make nice, Standish," Josiah said firmly, wondering how in god's name he was going to enforce that if Standish decided to play the city boy in Hicksville.
2pm Jamestown PDHQ
"Caverty speaking." Jane picked up the phone ringing on Adrian's desk, and grabbed pen and paper.
"Morning Jane, Hank at front desk. I was trying to get hold of Ade. He there?"
"Stepped out for a minute."
"Right. Only I just sent a pair of ATF guys upstairs to meet you two."
"ATF?" She blinked. She'd been expecting another call from the Denver FBI guys. They'd been talking about sending someone over from Fargo or Bismarck, as Jamestown didn't rate its own FBI office, but nothing had come of it yet, and as the kid was safe they didn't seem hugely concerned about rushing up there. They had promised an FBI trained child psychologist to talk to the kid, but she knew better than to expect that to happen quickly.
"Said they were here about that kidnapping you guys solved."
"Oh. Ohhh, wait, wait, were their names Larabee or Wilmington?" She flipped through the papers until she found the FBI notice. Yeah, there they were. That's where she'd heard ATF recently, the kid's fathers. Damn, if she had a couple of ATF parents pounding up the stairs to find out what they was doing on the investigation...
"Nope. Got a Sanchez and a Standish."
Well, that was good and bad. Good that she wasn't going to be dealing with a pair of federal agents who were potentially also panic-stricken parents. Bad because she was still none the wiser. "Odd." She glanced up the corridor and spotted two strangers emerging from the elevator. "Oh, hey. They a big guy and a skinny little guy?"
"Got 'em. Thanks, Hank."
Jane put the phone down and checked over her desk quickly for any material these guys shouldn't see. A couple of the photos of the kid were lurking, and she turned them face down as she stood to greet the approaching men. "Agents?"
The two men paused, the smaller of them smiling at her. "We are looking for an Officer Brown, or an Officer Caverty." The man's deeply southern accent surprised her, and she found herself smiling at the lilt of it.
"Well, you found Caverty. Jane Caverty. Adrian Brown's not at his desk at the moment." She stuck out a hand which the first man took and shook, smiling into her eyes. He had the oddest green eyes, and held her hand for just a moment too long.
"Ezra Standish. And my colleague is Josiah Sanchez."
Sanchez leaned forward to offer a large hand with a strong, bony grip, and she nodded at him. "Pleased to meet you, sirs. How can I help?"
The men exchanged glances, and she sighed with relief as she caught sight of Adrian walking back up the corridor.
"We would like to offer our assistance in any capacity following up the kidnapping of young John Daniel Dunne," Mr. Smooth and Southern said.
"Hey, Brown," she smiled gratefully at her partner, "These are Agents Standish and Sanchez, with the ATF. Adrian Brown, my partner, and the senior officer on the case," she smiled as she callously threw her partner to the wolves.
Adrian's dark eyebrows drew together briefly, and he shook the men's hands. "Gentlemen. How can we be of assistance?" His glance at her told her exactly what he thought of her little tactic for getting out of talking to the feds, and she grinned happily back at him.
"We were in fact wondering exactly that," Standish spoke and Caverty found herself watching Sanchez as his eyes slid around the room while his partner spoke. He missed nothing, the lines on his face deepening momentarily as he spotted the kidnapping bulletin and the hospital picture pinned to it on their 'success' wall.
"Mr. Sanchez and I would like to offer our assistance in following up the Dunne kidnapping," Standish reiterated. "As I was about to say to your fair partner, Mr. Sanchez and myself are from the Denver ATF, and find ourselves with some time on our hands, and a burning interest in locating and detaining the miscreants who dared to take--"
Standish smiled. "I beg your pardon. We would like to render any assistance possible."
Brown looked back and forth between the two of them, then met Jane's eyes. "Can I see some proof of ID?"
The two men held out their ATF badges, and Brown took them. "If I may?" he asked politely. "I just want to make sure I'm talking to the right men," he said. "Can I offer you some coffee?" Both men shook their heads. "Wait here please."
He walked away into the research room, and Jane watched as he called up the federal employees database. After a few minutes he reappeared, smiling. He handed the badges back. "Thank you, gentlemen."
"Commendable," Standish murmured, and winced. Jane glanced down and caught Sanchez' foot settling back on the floor, and suppressed her grin.
"If you'll follow me? Jane, bring the case file."
Jane scooped the paperwork up into a folder and trailed after the three men as they headed in to one of the interview rooms. There were real disadvantages to being the junior partner.
"Nothing personal, Agents," Brown said as they settled into chairs around the oval table. "But I would like to know your angle in this? I was expecting the FBI, not a couple of guys from the ATF."
"Well, undoubtedly our esteemed colleagues with the Federal Bureau of Investigation would have--"
"What he's planning to say eventually," Sanchez interrupted with a resigned look at his colleague, "is that we work with the boy's father. Kid's like a nephew to us, both of us. JD's safe with Chris Larabee, his guardian, our boss, and we'd like to help find the scum that took him."
Ezra rolled his eyes. "I would have said it with far greater regard for the tender nuances of courtesy and language," he chided.
Jane grinned, and jerked a thumb at Ezra, "He means he'd'a said the same thing so twisty we wouldn'a known we was coming or going?"
"Pretty much," Sanchez grinned.
"And if we don't require your assistance at this time?" Brown asked, his voice neutral. "Bearing in mind that the ATF has no jurisdiction in kidnapping cases. We don't need any cowboys stomping around looking for revenge. No offense."
"None taken. Doubtless we would withdraw politely, and proceed to duplicate your sterling efforts, and waste both our time and energy." Standish told him, then turned to Sanchez, "You perceive I can in fact be laconic should the need arise."
"I don't know I'd call that laconic," Brown said with a small smile.
"More to the point, we believe that it relates strongly to a case that the ATF has recently brought to trial, and may have been carried out by some key figures in a weapons and drugs ring," Sanchez intervened.
Brown assessed Sanchez thoughtfully. "Okay, then." He nodded to Jane. "Want to show them what we have so far?"
She opened the file and spread out the contents. "Pictures of the child -- they're kinda disturbing," she warned as Standish reached out to pick them up. His hand barely hesitated and he flicked through them grimly.
"Damn. I didn't realize -- young Master Dunne was in a nightshirt, under blankets when I saw him," he said softly, passing each picture after he'd seen it to his colleague. "I thought -- I had hoped."
Genuine emotion broke through the slick mask and Jane suddenly warmed to this man who cared so badly about a little boy.
"Souleater take them," Sanchez rumbled. "Soulless, unhuman bastards." He gripped Standish's shoulder briefly, then neatly squared the pile of photographs, ordering them until one with the boy's sleeping face, the bruises on the one side nearly obscured by a blanket, rested on the top.
"The kid was picked up by a couple of guys who'd been fishing. They pulled him out of the river, realised there was something hinky going on, and brought him here," Jane summarized, and the others nodded.
"We understood as much."
"We're not entirely clear where the child entered the river, but we don't believe it could have been far, on the basis that he is relatively small, and pretty young, and the river is high." She was tactful enough to not mention an earlier discussion with Adrian, when they had agreed that he would almost certainly have drowned had he been in the river for any significant length of time.
"He swims well for a six year old." Sanchez observed. "Don't underestimate him."
"Okay. Well, anyway, on the map," she unfolded it and spread it on the table, "here is where Gilles and Wedden say they pulled him out." She tapped a point on the James River. "They fish at this spot regularly so they were pretty certain of its location."
"Where's the Hennessy Paper Mill?" Standish asked, inspecting the river's course avidly.
"Hennessey's? Here." She pointed to the symbol indicating buildings upstream from the spot where JD had been rescued. "About ten, fifteen miles up the river. More like twenty or thirty if you have to go by road."
"Why Hennessy's?" Brown asked intently.
"Various reasons. The ransom tape shows JD in a warehouse storage area of some sort, the shelves hold boxes of Enster computer paper."
"A lot of people buy it up here."
"How many of them are related to Ric Kemp?" Standish asked pointedly.
"He's on trial in Austin for--"
"Gun running and human slave trade," Caverty interrupted, looking from Standish to Brown and then back. "It was in all the papers when the trial started, Mrs. Hennessy is a big landowner, and well liked up here. It was one heck of a scandal when it all came out."
"How does Kemp come into this?" Brown said patiently. "Being related to a man on trial isn't a crime."
Sanchez' face hardened. "Wilmington -- the boy's father, he's one of the star witnesses." Sick comprehension dawned on the two police officers' faces. "The ransom tape -- the kidnappers had JD tell his father that if he went ahead and testified, he'd never see JD again."
"They got the kid to --" Caverty swallowed and stopped, her eyes resting on the photograph at the top of the pile. "Damn."
"Okay, I see the connection. You guys were on the Kemp case. I can see you'd want to be involved in this." Brown conceded. He measured out the distance with a ruler, "He'd've had to have traveled nearly thirteen miles down the river. Is that likely for a six year old, however strong a swimmer?"
The others looked at the map.
"It's a reach, but he patently survived the experience. Let us perhaps not dwell upon the supposed impossibilities before us, but on the evidence."
"But how did he get up here?" Brown protested, "Why would she allow them to use her warehouse? There's no reason to assume that she knew about it -- it could have simply be convenient "
Sanchez shook his head once. "No. Kemp's smarter than that. And so's the man currently in charge of his operations, Seth Charles."
"My money would be on finding that particular venomous reptile at the bottom of this woodpile," Standish agreed. "No, there's some particular reason they ended up here."
"The thing that puzzles me," Sanchez frowned at Standish, "is it has Kemp's viciousness, but I'm getting a real amateur feel off of the way it played out. They shouldn't have brought him here. It was too damned easy to find."
Standish nodded. "If Mrs. Hennessey was involved in the decision to bring JD up here, that could explain it," he speculated.
"You still haven't convinced me that Lisa Hennessey was involved," Brown shook his head. "I'll buy this Charles guy, I'm guessing you guys have some personal knowledge of him," the two ATF agents nodded grimly, "but Hennessy..."
"Also," Standish added, "I don't know if they've contacted you, but we had word from the FBI unit investigating this in Denver that Mrs. Hennessy's regular flight from Aspen to Jamestown went from Denver on Thursday morning at eleven. Three passengers, no children, but a large amount of 'fragile baggage' was checked through. I suspect that Hennessey was persuaded to participate in some fashion, and insisted on keeping the child with her, for unknown reasons."
"Doesn't sound good for Mrs. Hennessey," Jane shook her head slowly. "Adrian, you've gotta admit the evidence is pretty much against her."
"We've heard from McKinnon's team, but we haven't had much actual material through."
"Typical of the FBI," Standish muttered, and Caverty's eyebrows rose.
"She said something about sending an agent up from Denver, but unless Jane's heard something," Jane shook her head and Adrian went on, "we haven't had any further updates. For god's sake, why would Hennessey get involved in something like a kidnapping? It makes no sense, even if Kemp is her brother."
Sanchez's face hardened. "I guess we're going to have to ask Mrs. Hennessy that. And while we're at it, a couple of search warrants for her home and the paper mill premises wouldn't go amiss."
3.30 pm Hennessy Paper Mill
Lisa Hennessy felt sick. It had all been so straightforward, so simple. And it had been so astonishingly easy to do. And now...
She closed her eyes and quelled her nausea, taking deep breaths and letting them out slowly. In, two three, four... out two, three four, five, six, seven, eight.
"Tell them I will, no, I'll, no, Loretta, tell them I'll be down immediately, and find me a meeting room. Enough for all of them."
"All of them?"
"*All* of them" she gritted out, and consciously tried to relax her jaw.
"Yes, Mrs. Hennessy."
She put the phone down and stood, smoothing down her skirt suit, straightening her jacket, tucking back flyaway strands of fair hair. She glanced herself in the window as she passed. She'd do. She wished she had a moment to freshen up, but she didn't dare take the time. Or did she?
She paused with her hand hovering above the call button. Perhaps if she took her time she'd look like she wasn't worried. Or maybe it would look like she was being arrogant, and they'd get angry. Or--
Irresolute, she bit her lip, her nails digging into her palms. What to do? If they searched they'd find the room. God, how stupid! And she didn't even have the boy any more. What was she going to do? What could she say?
She pushed the button and drew a deep breath. She'd tell them everything.
3.30 pm Hennessy Paper Mill, ND
Jane Caverty and Adrian Brown were accompanied by the two agents from the Denver ATF. Somehow the bigger one, Sanchez, had ended up running the operation to visit Hennessy's Paper Mill. Jane stole a quick glance at him. He was huge, far too tall and broad to move as noiselessly as he did. She supposed that he ought to be in charge, although it stung to lose her case to a fed. Certainly that was how he had won the argument with Brown and their boss Lieutenant Lisker. Standish by contrast was so much slighter than he managed to look almost delicate next to Sanchez, despite the broad shoulders, muscular build half hidden under a well cut suit, and cold, deadly air about him.
"Taking her time, isn't she?" Josiah murmured softly, and Jane jumped. "Sorry," he added, with a faint smile, and Jane nodded.
The hallway was empty. For a weekday afternoon that was just plain unlikely. The receptionist eyed them with something between disdain and anxiety, her immaculately manicured nails plucking at her equally immaculate grey hair.
"Can I get you a coffee?" she asked them. They all refused and the silence continued.
A chime from the elevator area had them all turning, so they all saw Lisa Hennessy's momentary hesitation before she walked out, smiling confidently, a hand outstretched to Sanchez. Her blue eyes met his squarely.
"Agent Sanchez?" She shook hands politely when he nodded, and followed up with the rest of them. "Agent Standish, officers. Please, this way," she gestured down a corridor.
The receptionist mouthed, "The Venetian Room, Mrs. Hennessy," and the barest nod acknowledged the woman's instructions. She ushered them into a room that overlooked a vista of open grass and a river drifting in the distance.
"Please, take a seat. Would you care for a drink?" They refused again, and she settled at the head of the table, smoothing her skirt with quick fingers before catching them together and folding her hands quietly in her lap. "How can I help?"
Agent Sanchez remained standing, and Standish stayed leaning by the door, watching her with eyes that glittered unnervingly. "Mrs. Hennessy, we have reason to believe that a serious crime has been commissioned and executed by someone on these premises. We would like your permission to search this building and any associated buildings."
"What, what sort of crime?" Her voice was perfectly calm and composed after the initial stumble, and Caverty watched in interest as her hands tensed, the knuckles going white.
"A kidnapping. The child was found early this morning, and we have strong evidence that it was here, or somewhere very similar that he was held."
"Oh!" One hand flew to her mouth and all three caught the relief in her eyes, "Oh, the poor child. Is he all right?"
Sanchez shook his head solemnly, and Caverty caught a flash of calculation in his eyes. "He's in hospital presently, I understand." A little of his anger rumbled underneath his even tones, and her shoulders hunched, visibly wilting.
"Oh, how, how terrible." She clenched her hands back together. "Of course, if there is anything my people can do to help track down whoever committed this terrible crime, please. Yes."
"Do we have your permission to search the premises?" Caverty could see Sanchez fingering the search warrants in his pocket as he asked, ready to produce them.
"Yes, yes, of course." She looked down and then up again, squaring her shoulders and drawing a deep breath. "But first, I think perhaps I had better explain some things."
"Mrs. Hennessy, please be careful what you choose to say at this time," Brown said gently. "I strongly advise you call your attorney before you say anything."
"No. No," she said firmly, holding the federal agent's eyes steadily. "I, I might as well take my medicine."
"Officer Brown?" Josiah made a half turn to look at Brown, who rose and moved to her side, and read her her rights.
"Do you understand these as they have been read to you?" She nodded, and he carried on, "You're not under arrest at this time, but if you want us to stop, or call an attorney at any time, that is your right," he added.
"I understand." She stared at the plain beige linen of her skirt and twisted her hands together.
"What did you want to tell us?" Jane asked gently.
She sniffed, and cleared her throat. "I despise tears. Excuse me." She dabbed at her eyes with a finger, and started, never looking up.
"Ricky is my brother. You know that? Richard Kemp. He's, he *was* on trial."
"He still is," Standish spoke unexpectedly from the other side of the room. She glanced up, startled, she'd almost forgotten the fourth man was there. His gaze never faltered, and she looked away.
"Good, that's, good. He, oh dear, this seems so stupid now, and at the time it seemed so impossible."
"Mrs. Hennessey?" Sanchez said patiently.
"I'm sorry, I'm not being very clear, am I?" She glanced up, and then back down again.
"He, I. His son, Kyle. I've been looking after him. My husband and I couldn't have children, and Richard's mistress had one, and they didn't want him. She was quite happy to be paid off. I -- we adopted him ten years ago. My husband died not long afterwards, Kyle was only four but it was fine, it wasn't a problem." She looked up. "He's a dear little boy. And Ricky said -- and I couldn't bear it. So I did what he said, and he promised me he would stay away this time. Except it has all gone wrong. It's all so very wrong. I knew that, you see." She swallowed hard. "I wanted to be sure he would be safe. That's why I came too. I didn't know they were going to--what they were going to do. I'll give you their names. Anything. My poor little Kyle. That poor little boy."
The four others in the room looked at each other skeptically.
"Mrs. Hennessy. Perhaps you'd like to tell us the story from the beginning." Sanchez suggested gently.
"Oh. I'm so sorry." She looked up. "It was very easy. Ricky told me to call a number, and give a name, and they would take care of everything. I just had to provide the money and he promised he would allow the court to sever his parental rights. He wouldn't bother me or Kyle ever again: you don't know how badly I wanted that. My brother--" She stopped and looked away. "My brother is not a good man."
Caverty saw Standish roll his eyes, but he said nothing, his face impassive and watchful.
"Who did you call?" Sanchez asked patiently.
"Someone called Seth Charles."
Four sets of eyes met. It was fitting together, tighter and tighter.
"I can give you the number. And I told him I was calling about the no-name specials. I had to give him an account number. Rick told me which one."
"How did your brother contact you?" Sanchez asked quietly.
"A tape. I think his lawyer taped him. I still have it, I don't know if you, would it help if you had it?" she looked up hopefully, but slumped at the stoney faces that looked back at her. "He told me to destroy it, but I wanted proof that he'd said he would sever the rights; stop seeing Kyle. It upset Kyle so badly when he came around." She shook her head. "I don't like Ricky very much. He's the last person who should have charge of a small child. Boy or girl."
"Do you think he molested your son?" Caverty asked quietly, figuring the question might come easier from a woman.
Hennessey met her eyes. "I--I don't know. I don't think so. I never gave him the--" She reddened. "I sometimes think he could be capable--" She stopped and dropped her eyes to where her hands trembled against each other, and she clutched them together. "That's an awful thing to say about one's own blood, but I couldn't help thinking it. Not when he used to look at him--"
"You were going to say he was capable of it?"
She nodded reluctantly, refusing to look up.
"Did you know what they were going to do?" Standish asked from the far side of the room, voice icy.
She nodded again. "I, I had to tell them. I told them to take that little boy. Oh god, he was so little. And I told them to do it."
There was silence in the room as she gulped and produced a handkerchief from somewhere. "I told them. He gave me the address and everything. There was a folder of information. I had to give it to Mr. Charles."
"And you did that?"
"Were you present at the kidnapping?" Sanchez asked sternly.
"Yes." Her voice was almost inaudible.
"I'm sorry, I couldn't hear you. Were you, Lisa Hennessey, present during the abduction of John Daniel Dunne, six years of age, from his minder's home in Colorado, having commissioned the same through one Seth Charles?"
"Why?" Sanchez asked simply, leaning forward on the table.
"What?" She blinked, confused.
"Why?" Sanchez moved around the table and settled in a chair next to her and regarded her thoughtfully. "Why were you there? Why didn't you leave Seth Charles and his people to deal with it? Did your brother tell you to?"
"No. No. He was quite angry. He told me to stop interfering."
"Because I wouldn't trust him or his with a child. Ever. I wanted to m-make sure the child was safe. And--" She ducked her head, reddening.
"And it was exciting?" Standish said acidly. "Perhaps you felt that a little excitement would spice up your otherwise blameless, drab existence. Perhaps a little criminal activity didn't seem too much to pay for keeping your boy away from his biological father."
She flinched. "I thought it would be okay. They'd just look after him, and then give him back, after they did what my brother wanted. He wasn't going to be hurt. I suppose... I suppose I wasn't thinking."
"I think we can agree on that." Standish muttered, and Sanchez flicked him a reproving look.
"So why did you bring the boy here? You did bring him here?"
"Yes. I insisted. He was going to take him god knows where. I have a little bedroom here; my employees use it if they're feeling unwell. He was supposed to stay in there. Kyle has slept there from time to time. It locks, I thought he'd be perfectly safe."
"Safe? In the grip of his kidnappers, ma'am?" Caverty blurted incredulously.
"Jane," Brown said softly as Sanchez glanced at her.
"He went missing. I think that Charles man took him, put him somewhere. I don't know where. I couldn't find him. I looked everywhere. I didn't know what to do." She looked desperately at them, "I tried to call Ricky, but he was in court, and I couldn't tell anyone! I couldn't call the police! You see that, don't you?"
"So you left him with Mr. Charles?"
"Yes. I'm sorry! I didn't mean to."
"Were there any others? Any other accomplices?"
"Two. I can describe them. They're still here, I think."
"Where?" The four of them spoke together, leaning forward.
"Oh." She flinched. "They're in the staff break room. I think they are. They were when I was coming down to meet you."
"Would anyone have told them that the police were here?"
"No. Loretta is very discreet."
Sanchez grinned broadly. "Would you like to show us to the break room, Mrs. Hennessy?"
"Certainly." She rose, and hesitated. "Am I under arrest now?"
"I think you can consider yourself under arrest, yes, ma'am." Caverty said firmly. Sanchez nodded, and she produced her cuffs.
"In a moment. First the break room?" Sanchez smiled, and she nodded, relief on her face.
"Up this way."
"Can you describe the room please, ma'am?" Brown asked as they followed her.
"It's about forty feet by thirty. There are three or four little groups of chairs, and a table by the window."
"How many windows?"
"Oh, lots, it's a corner room. I wanted to make sure there was lots of light in there."
The four officers looked at each other. Sanchez and Brown were frowning, Caverty felt like frowning too. The size of the room alone was bad, plus furniture, plus windows, plus an unknown number of people inside. The odds weren't good.
"Could you point us to the room, ma'am, and then go back to the room we were in," she suggested, and shrugged at her partner and the feds. "She's hardly a flight risk."
"I'm not sure I'd agree, but, we need these guys more." Sanchez nodded at Mrs. Hennessy. "Which one?"
"The door at the far end on the left."
"Thank you. And if you're lying--"
"No! I wouldn't. I promise!"
Jane shrugged and turned away, the others walking noiselessly beside her up the carpeted corridor, loosening their weapons as they went.
3.30 pm Four Corners, CO.
Vin was fidgeting. The judge had promised the boy he'd be back soon nearly five hours ago, and the itchiness to *do* was starting to become more and more visible.
"Vin, eat your food."
"Sorry, Mrs. Potter."
"Don't be sorry, eat!"
"Yes, Mrs. Potter."
Gloria sighed. God knows the child had enough stress in his life for any three adults, and she didn't dare push, and refused lunch earlier, but he'd barely eaten yesterday, and if she knew anything about Larabee, he hadn't fed the boy last night, and probably not this morning either. She tightened her lips, stopping herself from saying anything. She was pretty sure both Vin and his father blamed her. She also was well aware of her tendency to try to cure things with cooking.
If she hadn't been baking JD's favorite cookies, to cheer the boys up while their fathers were away, she could have stopped them before they could take JD.
Like all little quirks in a crisis it now magnified to a huge fault. Food had caused JD to be stolen; therefore, she wasn't going to push.
Vin stared morosely at his hot dog and fries, and pushed the fried onion across the plate in greasy streaks. He'd thought he was hungry when he asked for it. Now it was there, staring at him, the very smell made his stomach churn.
"Would you like something else?"
Vin's eyes lifted to her face like a blow. She knew what he would like. It was nothing she could offer.
The phone rang and she nearly gasped with relief. "Hello?"
"Nettie! Yes, yes, he's fine. Have you spoken to Mr. Larabee?" She paused and started shaking her head. "No, don't worry about me. I'm fine."
Vin slid from the table and left the kitchen quietly.
"Nettie, wait a moment. Vin, Vin sweetheart, don't go outside, okay?"
He looked back, blue eyes shadowed and watchful, and nodded wordlessly. She sighed as he slipped into the living room.
"Sorry, Nettie. No, he's probably sitting by the window. I think he's waiting for JD." She wiped at her eyes. "He knows. Orin was the first person they told, and he drove up here himself in the middle of the day to tell him. And I'm so glad they found him, but what was he doing so far away? Why did they take him? The poor little mite never did anything," her words tumbled out helplessly, and she stopped herself with a hand over her mouth. "I'm sorry, was there something you wanted?"
She blanched at the gentle, implacable words from her friend. "But, Nettie, I--I." She stopped. "No. I do see. I understand. I understand your position, I just -- oh! But what about Vin? Where's he going to stay if I can't look after him?"
Nettie's voice continued gently but she barely heard. "So, when, when are Child Services coming?"
"No!" Vin shouted. Gloria looked up and found the boy standing at the door. "I won't go! You can't make me! You can't take me away from Dad, I've gotta be there when he comes home!"
"Vin, it's going to be okay. Nettie, the boy overheard. Can I call you back? Mrs. Jackson offered to take him, would she be an acceptable substitute?"
"Could you call her? I've got to go -- Vin, no, come back here!" She dropped the phone abruptly and hurried to where Vin was pulling on his shoes.
"They ain't taking me. I ain't going an' you can't make me!" He pulled away from her and tried to reach the door.
"Vin, no, please! Auntie Rain is going to come look after you."
"No! I'm gonna call Chris and make him come get me. You're *bad*. You lost JD and you're trying to get rid of me!"
Gloria flinched. "No, honey, Ms Wells has to investigate what happened. She's very fond of you boys, and JD was kidnapped from here. She can't allow me to look after you while they're investigating. It wasn't my fault, she knows that, but those are the rules." She bent down and held her hands out, and added gently, "You know it isn't your fault either, Vin, don't you?"
Vin backed away. "Don't let 'em take me!"
Gloria bit her lip. "It isn't your fault. They aren't taking you because JD got kidnapped. It's just the rules. But Ms Wells is going to call Mrs. Jackson, Auntie Rain, okay? right now and see if she can come over. And if your Dad is okay with it, you'll stay with her today."
"Don't want to! I want to go *home*! You can't make me stay! I'll, I'll run away, and you won't never find me."
Gloria kept her eyes steady despite the lurch in her chest. "I'm sure you could. But what would that do to Chris? Or JD? They've only just found him, and you go missing? Isn't that a bit selfish?"
Vin's face blanked.
"Vin, running away won't cure anything. It won't make you feel better. It won't make *anyone* feel better."
He looked at her thoughtfully, then away, and she wished she knew what he was thinking. She waited for his next move. She relaxed a little as she remembered the police presence outside the house. Vin surely wouldn't get far even if he did try to slip away. And where would he go? The ranch was locked up and empty, and the rest of the team were with Larabee in Dakota.
He nodded finally and drifted away, twisting easily away from her touch when she tried to embrace him. She followed him into the living room and watched as he curled up in the corner of the window again, staring down the road. An unpleasant thought struck her, and she shook her head. No. He wouldn't be stupid enough to try to go to join the team. Would he?
She watched him like a hawk for the rest of the afternoon.
Rain Jackson arrived an hour later, and Gloria had no idea what to say to the woman. Rain was clearly just as uncomfortable, and the two of them sat watching Vin, who sat at the window watching the road outside, in silence except for periodic offers of coffee which were always politely refused.
Not long after Rain arrived the phone rang. Gloria picked up with considerable trepidation, one eye on Vin, who looked poised for flight.
"Hello?" Her face relaxed. "Judge, I'm so glad you called, Ms Wells wants to--oh, you do? She did?" There was a long silence as she listened, relief filling her face.
"How long will it be?" She carefully avoided warning the boy, who rose to his feet anyway, quick to catch the attempt at deception.
"We'll meet you there in two hours then." She rubbed a hand over her face and sighed with relief. "I can't tell you how glad I am that you stepped in." She smiled at Vin reassuringly, "We had a pretty bad time at first. He'll like this plan much better."
"We'll see you then." She put the phone back down and smiled at her charge. "Go get washed up, and use the bathroom. I'll pack your emergency clothes in a bag, and we'll leave in half an hour."
"Where?" he asked sullenly.
She smiled. "The airport. The Judge will meet us there, and you'll be flying to Jamestown. Well, Minneapolis first."
His face lit up, and she smiled back at him. "We're going to see JD?"
"Yes," she confirmed and he grinned.
"Cool." He bounced towards the door then stopped and turned reluctantly. "Um." He scuffed a foot on the carpet then straightened up. "I'm sorry about what I said."
Gloria hugged him. "Well, so was I. But you were very upset, and I was upset too, so we'll forget about it, okay? Even Stevens?"
"Off to the bathroom with you then."
Rain smiled at her, "Shall I help you pack? And maybe we can put in some things for JD as well? I don't expect for a moment the guys thought to take any clothes for him."
"Oh, of course not! Men!" She hurried up the stairs. "The boys' clothes are in the dresser in the spare room, the first room on the right at the top of the stairs. If you can get them, I'll find a case, and check on Vin."
"Okay," Rain called back. The sound of drawers opening and closing was almost hidden by the sound of a flushing toilet, and Gloria paused, wiping at her eyes. A terrible mistake, but one soon to be over. A small smile lit her face. JD would be home soon.
And if she wasn't allowed to look after them any more, she would understand, and be glad to have known them.
4 pm, Hennessy Paper Mill, ND
"Federal Agent! Nobody move!" Sanchez slammed into the break room, gun up. Caverty followed low, Brown high, taking the sides as Sanchez and Standish took the center. Every head snapped around, Josiah counted seven people. Three women froze, cups in the air, one with her mouth half around a pastry. Two men towards the back of the room, both with that mix of defiance and fear that to him always marked out the guilty. Another two by the sink, one with his hands in the water, the other
"Get down! Put the gun down!"
He felt without seeing, the two police officers left and right of him dive and roll, coming up with guns aimed and ready. He knew without even looking that Ezra had split right, dropping behind a table for cover. He dodged to the side and yelled again, "Put the gun down!"
He snapped off a shot and missed, shattering one of those picture windows that Mrs. Hennessy had been so proud of. Two of the three remaining men produced guns too, and dived for the scant protection of the overstuffed chairs. The women screamed and Sanchez swore mentally and ran towards then, crouched and weaving as Caverty and Brown laid down covering fire.
"ATF! Ladies, get down, stay down, and try to make your way to the exit. Do not stand!" He grabbed one who started to rise and shoved her to the floor, "Sorry ma'am, but if you stand up you'll be a target for those low lives. Please, crawl towards the exit. Keep behind the furniture wherever possible." He pulled his arm away from a panicked grip and sprinted for the slightly better cover of the table, which he knocked over, drawing the gun fire away from the women.
He peeked out from the side of the table and snapped off a shot, winging the gun arm of the man ducked down by the sink. The injured man swore and dropped the gun. A flash of movement and red in the corner of his eye warned him and he pulled back in time to avoid another man falling, gutshot, towards him. He glanced over his shoulder to meet Standish's eyes. Standish saluted him two fingers to an imaginary hat and a tiny grin, and he nodded back, I owe you one, and turned his attention instantly back to the rest of the confrontation. Two down. Two left.
He eased around the opposite side of the table looking for them. There's one.
"Lay down your weapons!" he called, slowly rising to one knee, lining up for a shot, confident that his backup would take care of the unseen fourth. There was a massive crash. One of the windows shattered under a swung chair and he swore as the fourth man, the one he suspected to be Seth Charles, Kemp's lieutenant, dived through it, chancing the two story fall. Standish sprinted for the window, and Josiah yelled, "Ez, no!"
Standish turned, glaring at him. He shook his head, and Josiah couldn't spare any longer watching him, and turned his attention fully on the last man standing.
"Give it up!" Caverty called as she slid round the walls, getting between the remaining man and any possible exit. The guy looked around wildly, then dropped the gun, raising his hands to the back of his head. Brown moved carefully, never blocking his partner or the ATF agents' line of fire.
"On the ground! Get down!" He pushed him none too gently to the floor, and quickly cuffed him, reading his rights. The moment the cuffs were on him Caverty headed for the man who had been shot in the arm. He was crouching behind the sink, moaning in pain and clutching at the bleeding wound as she patted him down and read him his rights.
Sanchez approached the gutshot cautiously, gun still out. The man appeared to be unconscious, but it wasn't worth the risk. He patted him down, removing a knife and another gun before rolling the man over and cuffing him. He scowled. It still seemed inhumane, but it was the rules. He breathed a sigh of relief and looked for Ezra. He caught a flash of closing door as Standish headed down the stairs after the jumper, and scowled.
"Brown, secure this. Caverty, call for backup. I'm going after Standish." Caverty's face tightened for a moment and he wondered briefly, second guessing himself, if he ought to include the local cops in the last part of the chase. No. They had no reinforcements coming. They would both be needed up here. He dismissed the thought.
"Yes, sir." She pulled out her radio and was calling in to request backup from Jamestown and the closer Buchanan before he even left the room.
He sprinted down the stairs after Ezra, hurdling the last few steps, vaulting the banisters to drop a flight. He caught up with Standish in the corridor out of the stairwell, but they didn't exchange so much as a glance. Instead they were out the door, slamming it wide, and through the foyer, the receptionist jumping to her feet, her eyes wide and hands over her mouth.
Out the doors, round the building to the left, without a word, Standish peeled off to the right, guns out, held low.
He came around the corner, moving low and fast: no sign. He glanced upwards, trying to orient himself on the building. There. The shattered glass shone like a beacon in the afternoon sun and he slowed, eyes moving rapidly trying to catch anything, a movement out of place, a piece of fabric.
A car revved, and he turned to see a small dark car tear up the road with a screech of rubber. He sprinted after it, but couldn't get close enough to read the plates before it disappeared around a bend.
"Damn! Damn, damn, damn," he swore. He leaned his hands on his thighs, breathing hard. Maybe he should work out more, Ezra swore by running every morning. Maybe he had a point...
Standish ran up and stopped beside him, barely out of breath at all, despite having run right around the building and halfway out the parking lot. Josiah scowled at him.
"Did you get the number?" he asked urgently.
Sanchez shook his head, and Standish gave him a scathing look.
"Cameras," Sanchez shook his head, smug satisfaction on his face, gesturing at the security cameras perched high around the parking lot.
Ezra nodded. "I'll go ahead and get them to pull them. Back-up's got to be at least twenty minutes away still."
Sanchez nodded and straightened. "Let's get back inside and see if we can help Brown and Caverty with the clean up."
They walked back into the building. By now people were pouring out of their offices, panicking at the sound of gunfire that had filled the building.
"Everybody, please stay calm," Standish called, his cool manner and clear voice -- and raised ATF badge -- a beacon calming and drawing the workers' eyes. Instantly he was swamped. He and Sanchez swapped a rueful look and Sanchez slipped past, leaving him to manage the crowd.
Up on the second floor, Mrs. Hennessy was awkwardly helping to put pressure on the wound on the man who had been shot in the upper stomach area. Her hands were cuffed, but in front of her, and she shuffled back on her knees when Sanchez approached, her bloodstained hands in her lap.
"Help her wash that off," Sanchez snapped at Caverty, angry. Caverty herself was wearing latex evidence gloves as she wrapped a bandage tightly around the other injured man's arm. The white bandage had already spotted through, and she silently wrapped another layer over it.
"I did advise her to put gloves on, sir," she protested.
"I'm not sure how I was supposed to arrange that like this," Hennessy lifted her cuffed hands.
Sanchez pulled her brusquely to her feet.
"He's going to bleed to death if we don't keep pressure on it."
"We need to get that blood off of you right now," he insisted, and pulled her over to the sink. "Do you have any cuts on your hands or arms?" He turned on the water, letting it run as hot as he thought she could bear, and pulled on glove of his own.
"No, I don't think so." She stood patiently while Sanchez squirted detergent over her wrists then plunged them into the swiftly running hot water. "Do you have to be so rough?"
"Sorry, ma'am." He inspected her skin minutely. "Looks clear. Still, we'll check his medical background, let you know if you ought to get tested."
He nodded back to the man whose blood had covered her hands. "Who knows if he's infected or not."
"Oh my god!"
"Probably not, but standard precautions have to be taken."
"I never thought--oh my god!"
"If I get you a pair of gloves you can carry on helping, if you don't mind," he added, somewhat callously. He handed her a towel and once she had dried up, a pair of thin evidence gloves. "Try not to let the blood anywhere except on these."
"Oh my god."
"Ma'am?" He asked impatiently. He didn't have time for this.
"Yes, I'll, of course, I just--oh my god." She knelt by the injured criminal and pushed firmly on the bloody tea towels packing the wound.
Sanchez sighed. What a damned mess. He looked around. Furniture overturned and splintered from gun shots. Two windows smashed. Three men down, none of them his. Which was a definite plus. No plates on that car, but the cameras should have caught it, so not a complete loss. Which reminded him. Ezra probably had his hands full with crowd control.
"Mrs. Hennessy?" He walked over and crouched by her.
"Do you know the number for your security staff?"
"It's just Tommy. Tommy Cheung. He's on extension 777."
"Thank you." He picked up the wall phone and dialed.
"This is Agent Josiah Sanchez with the ATF. I need you to pull the tapes for the last half hour on the parking lot out front. I'm sending an Officer Brown down to collect them." He glanced at Brown who looked up from where he was standing guard over the two other prisoners and nodded.
"I'm sorry, sir, I'm going to need some proof of identity." Cheung said hesitantly.
Sanchez drew a deep breath. "Right. Fine. Mrs. Hennessy!" he shouted, not bothering to move his hand over the mouth piece. I hope his ears hurt for a week.
"Yes Agent Sanchez?" She looked up impatiently, almost visibly stopping herself adding, 'what *now*'.
"Please confirm to Mr. Cheung that you authorize the release of the security tapes."
"Yes." She struggled to her feet, and hurried over. He held the phone to her head. "Tommy, this is Lisa Hennessey, please help Agent Sanchez and the police in any way you can."
She stepped away from the phone. "He'll be okay now," she said tiredly, and trudged back to the man on the floor.
"Thank you. Mr. Cheung?"
"I'll get them out now. How else can I help?"
"I have an agent, Standish, downstairs trying to mange a crowd situation. Could you assist him once you have handed the tapes to Officer Brown?"
"No problem, Agent. I'll be waiting for Officer Brown."
"Thanks." He hung up and shook his head. No sign of Charles. No injuries to the arresting team. Four of the low life scum who'd thought they could break up a family dear to his heart safely under arrest. And one small boy safely back with his family, albeit in hospital. He grinned. On the whole, a win for the good guys, he told himself. Now, if they could just find Charles.