Can You Hear Me Now?

by Angie

I wrote this as part of a challenge to myself to write one story highlighting each of the guys individually. It’s easy to write about my favorite character, not so easy to write about the others. Also, the descriptions of the signs are from the Midwest geographic area. Sign language has dialects and differences just like spoken speech.

The first bell rang and JD hurried to his first class. He was surprised at how easily he slipped in among the high school students. Judge Travis had asked him to go undercover to investigate weapons that were allegedly being sold by students. Ezra was also undercover in the high school as an English teacher.

JD’s first class of the day was calculus. He remembered being bored by it in high school and it wasn’t much better the second time around. He had chosen a seat near the back of the room so that he could observe the students. He had to try to figure out which one was selling weapons.

His second class of the day was English with the new teacher, Professor Standish. He again chose a seat near the rear of the class. He noticed a young woman in the corner of the room who stopped him cold. She was breathtaking! She had a pale, light complexion, jet-black hair and bright green eyes. He caught her eye and smiled, she blushed and smiled back.

Ezra strode into the room as if onto a grand stage. He scrolled his name across the blackboard in an exotic cursive script. “Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I am Professor Standish, I will be taking over for Doctor Lleason as she has been called away for a family emergency. Fear not, however, she left a complete list of the projects she was preparing for you this term and I shall simply pick up where she left off.”

Groans of displeasure rolled across the room. The classroom door opened and an older woman rushed in, moving to take a chair in front of the girl JD had noticed earlier. He surreptitiously watched as the older woman and the girl conversed in sign language. The girl was deaf!

“Excuse me Miss?” Ezra called from the front of the room.

“Oh, forgive me, Mrs. Tomlin. I’m the sign language interpreter for the main streamed hearing impaired student in this class.”

“I see. Very well. Please do try to arrive on time in the future, as I will begin my lecture series immediately after the last bell. Now, everyone please turn in your books to the story Great Expectations. You have 30 minutes to read the first three chapters after which time, we will discuss what you have read.”

JD managed to catch the eye of the deaf girl several times during the course of the reading period. Each time he did, she smiled at him and he felt almost giddy. Unfortunately, Professor Standish also caught the glances in the back of the room.

“Is there something you want to share with the class, Mr. Dunne?”

The young agent looked up and blushed, “No, sir. Nothing to share, Professor.”

After school that day, JD stopped at the library to check out a book on sign language.

The next day in class, JD caught her eye. He touched his fingertips to his chin and let them down in an arc away from his face. He then touched the fingers of his other hand to his elbow and brought his hand back up in an arc toward his face. ‘Good Morning.’

She smiled and returned the sign. She then turned a cupped hand from facing her body to facing upward. She then touched her index finger to her chin and brought it down in an arc, ending by pointing at him. ‘How are you?’

JD felt a moment of panic. He didn’t know what she said! She read the expression on his face and repeated the signs, this time mouthing the words. ‘How are you?’ JD smiled broadly. ‘Fine,’ he mouthed. She placed her thumb high on her chest and wiggled her spread fingers. ‘Fine.’ He repeated her sign.

At lunch that day, JD took his tray and sat at a table by himself. As he was marveling at how bad school food tasted, he noticed that someone was standing at his side. He looked up.

“Is anyone sitting here?” She said as she made the signs. Again, she touched her chin with her index finger and came down in an arc. Then she closed her hand into a fist with her thumb on the outside and sketched a ‘C’ in the air with her thumb. Then the index finger again. Then she brought two fingers together in a downward motion. Then she pointed to the chair beside him.

“No, please.” He knew the sign for please, his flat hand rubbing a small circle over his heart.

“My name is Darcy.” She said as she put her tray on the table and took a seat.

“You speak…” JD fumbled for the signs he had seen in the book.

“Just talk to me. I read lips too. What’s your name?”

“JD.” He lifted his little finger and sketched a ‘J’ in the air and then held up his index finger while his thumb touched his second finger as he curled the third and fourth fingers together. He had practiced the alphabet for hours last night.

She smiled again. “You’re new here.”

“My dad just moved here from back east.”

“I saw you with the sign language book. Do you know any other deaf people?”

“Just you. I wanted to be able to talk to you.”

She blushed. “Do you have a date for the Sadie Hawkins dance this week?”

“No. No one has asked me yet.”

“Would you like to go with me?”

JD’s eyes widened, “Yeah, I’d like that!”

She pulled a scrap of paper from her notebook with her address on it. “Pick me up at 6:30?”

JD nodded as he took the paper with a trembling hand.

“See you later, JD.” She made the signs. Her fingers formed a peace sign, which she touched under her eye and brought down to point one finger at him. She then held up her index finger and thumb in the shape of an ‘L’ as she rotated her index finger down in a half arc.

JD was nervous the rest of the day. He couldn’t believe he had just made a date with a high school girl. He dressed carefully for his date that Friday evening. He chose jeans and a t-shirt with a semi-dress jacket. Not knowing what color dress she was going to be wearing, he bought a single rose corsage with thin ribbons of pastel colors.

He pulled up in front of the address she had given him. It was a large, old Victorian home with a circular drive. He stopped the Mustang and got out, remembering at the last minute to take the corsage with him. He walked up and rang the doorbell. Thru the transom above the door, he observed a light going off and on. An older man opened the door. He could see where Darcy got the dark hair and green eyes.

“May I help you?”

“I’m here to pick up Darcy for the Sadie Hawkins dance. Name’s JD Dunne, sir.” He extended his hand for the man to shake. A firm non-challenging handshake was given.

“Come in. I’ll get Darcy.” He went to the stairway and flashed the light on and off.

“I’ll be right down, Daddy!”

JD smiled, he would not have thought to flash the lights to get her attention.

“Have you ever been out with a deaf person, Mr. Dunne?”

“N-no sir.”

“My daughter doesn’t often attend school functions with hearing boys. They treat her differently.”

“I would never do that, sir. She invited me to this dance.”

“Daddy, you aren’t giving JD a hard time are you?”

“I would never do that, Princess. Now, what time is the dance over?”

“It ends at 9:30 and I will be home by 10:00.”

Her father signed something that he didn’t voice. Darcy wagged her finger, “That’s not nice, Daddy.”

JD suddenly remembered the corsage in his hand, “I brought this for you.” He had been relieved to see that her dress at least had some tiny pastel flowers on it.

She opened the box and pulled out the corsage. “Thank you, JD! It’s beautiful. Daddy, will you help me with this?” After he pinned on the corsage, her father kissed her on the cheek.

“Have a good time, Princess. And you drive carefully, JD. You’ll have my little girl with you.”

JD nodded, “Yes, sir. I will.”

He offered her his arm as he opened the door and led her to the car. He opened her door and guided her into the seat and showed her the seatbelt. He closed the door and dashed around to the driver’s side. He put on his seat belt and checked hers before starting the car and pulling smoothly away.

“I hope my dad didn’t make you too uncomfortable.”

“No, not at all.” He looked at her for a moment and noticed for the first time that she was wearing a hearing aide. His puzzled expression caught her eye.

“What is it, JD?”

“Oh nothing, I just never noticed you had those…” He gestured toward her ear.

“Hearing aides. I only wear them to hear the music.”

They arrived at the dance and he escorted her into the school. He couldn’t help but smile as he saw the gym. He knew he couldn’t be too old if the sight of crepe paper streamers and tissue paper flowers could still make him feel silly inside.

He had a really good time. Darcy was a really good dancer. They mingled with the other kids but JD noticed that none of the other boys asked Darcy to dance. It was okay with JD because he really enjoyed her company.

Across the gym, JD saw Vin dancing with some girl. He had been trying to make inroads with the ‘rough crowd’ in an attempt to find out about the guns. His cover was to try to buy guns. He caught JD’s eye and winked at him but didn’t try to make contact.

After the dance, JD drove Darcy home. As he shut off the car in the driveway, she turned to him. “I had a really good time tonight, JD. Thank you.” She put her hand on his shoulder and kissed his cheek.

“See you Monday.”

The team met at Chris’s on Sunday for dinner together and to go over what they had learned in the past week. Ezra regaled the group with the answers on the student’s tests. He teased JD about the girls who giggled and passed notes about him.

The following Wednesday afternoon JD was called to the office. Josiah was waiting for him. “We had a little emergency at home and I need you to come with me right away, son.” JD nodded and followed his ‘dad’ out of the school.

“What’s up Josiah?”

“I don’t know but Judge Travis wants you in the office immediately.”

They arrived at the office and JD followed Josiah into the conference room. The entire team, except for Ezra, was assembled along with two other men JD had never seen before. Chris looked worried and that wasn’t a good sign.

“Sit down, JD.” Chris pulled out the chair Buck normally occupied, on Chris’s right. “These are Agents Koch and Felder from the FBI.”

Agent Koch pulled out a large manila envelope and began to lay out 8x10 black and white pictures on the table. Picture after picture of JD and Darcy sitting together in the lunchroom at school. Pictures of them at the dance. There was even a picture of Darcy kissing him in the Mustang.

“What’s this all about? Why are you taking pictures of Darcy and me?”

“Do you know who she is, Agent Dunne?” Agent Felder asked.

“Darcy? She’s just a girl in my class.”

“She’s Darcy Bergini. Her father is one of the biggest drug smugglers in the state. He’s the man we suspect of being behind the sale of the guns at the high school.”

JD’s eyes widened. “I didn’t know. I just thought she was a nice girl. I mean, she is a really nice girl. We just went to a dance together! I don’t care who her father is!”

Chris put a hand on JD’s shoulder, “Calm down, son. I don’t think they’re accusing you of anything.”

Agent Koch looked up at Chris and then back to JD. “Quite the contrary, Agent Dunne. We want you to get close to Miss Bergini. As close as possible. See if you can get into her house. We’ll get you a few bugs you can place on the inside. We’ve been trying to get into that house for six months.”

“NO! No way! Darcy is a friend. I won’t use her that way! They can’t make me do this, can they Chris? I won’t do it!”

“JD, you have to do it. Judge Travis has already sent the transfer papers, for the duration of this mission you work for them.”

JD’s jaw hung open. He’d been transferred? How could they do that without giving him any warning? He really liked Darcy! She was witty and funny. He couldn’t go into her father’s house and plant bugs. Besides, Darcy couldn’t be involved with the people selling guns on the school grounds, could she?

“No, I don’t care. I won’t do it! Take me off the mission! I won’t do it, Chris!”

Agent Felder stepped up behind JD and rested his hands on the table. “Then turn in your gun and your badge, son. You’re finished working for the ATF and the FBI. You will be placed in custody until the mission is resolved one way or the other.”

Vin stood to protest. “I haven’t heard anything about Mr. Bergini at any of the meetings I’ve been to! He may not even be involved in this!”

Five men in the room reacted loudly at the announcement. Chris stepped closer to Felder, “You can’t do that. He hasn’t done anything wrong.”

Nathan and Vin were holding Buck by the arms to keep him from going at the man. Josiah moved to stand behind Chris as JD came slowly to his feet. The hurt on his face was evident as he pulled his wallet and dropped his badge on the table.

“My gun is in my locker. Buck can get it for you.” He offered his hands meekly to be handcuffed.

“That won’t be necessary, son. We know you won’t make any trouble.” Agent Felder took JD by the arm and led him from the conference room.

Buck exploded, “Chris! You can’t let them do that to him! You can’t let them lock him up like a common criminal! He hasn’t done anything!”

After the door closed behind the three of them, Chris sank into his chair and massaged his forehead. Nathan and Vin forced Buck into his chair and took their seats. Chris reached out and picked up the phone and angrily punched the number for Judge Travis’s office.

Fifteen minutes later, the six remaining members of Team 7, including Ezra having arrived from the school, walked into the Judge’s office and stood behind Chris as they waited for an explanation.

“You’re all angry. I understand that. If you want to try to convince JD to play ball with the FBI, I’ll arrange it for you. I don’t want to lose him but my hands are tied in this one. The orders came from the very top. If he doesn’t cooperate, I can’t help him. I’m sorry.”

“Where are they holding him?”

“Right here in the building. They’ve agreed to let us keep him here for the next 72 hours. After that, they’ll transfer him to a regular jail.”

“They can’t do that! He’ll be recognized! He’ll be dead before the day is done! Judge Travis, this isn’t fair. JD didn’t know who the girl was, he doesn’t think that way!” Buck was screaming and pounding his hand on the desk.

An hour later, all seven members of Team 7 sat, dejected and disgusted, in the holding cell where JD had been confined. They hadn’t talked about the FBI threat.

“I know you’re all here to try to talk me into playing their game. I’m not gonna do it! Darcy is a nice girl and I won’t betray her friendship that way!”

Buck sat next to JD. “They’re gonna put you in the city jail, JD. They’ll eat you alive in there! You have to do what they want.”

Ezra spoke up, “I do admire your fortitude in protecting the young lady’s honor but is it worth losing your job over?”

A couple of hours later, the FBI agents returned and forced Chris and the others to leave. JD was to be alone in the cell until he made up his mind. They hadn’t been allowed to order take out food and later brought JD the same food that the other detainees received, a bologna sandwich.

JD lay on the hard bunk and glared at the ceiling. As long as he could remain angry, he was safe. He knew that if he let his anger fade, he would probably cry. It was a long time before he fell asleep.

The undercover agent observed Darcy the next day in class. He could tell that she was concerned over JD’s absence. She looked up every time the door opened. He also made it a point to watch her in the lunchroom. She approached several of the students that JD had been friendly with, asking if they knew how to contact him.

Vin untangled himself from the young woman who was trying to undress him on the couch. The smoky haze in the room was irritating his eyes. Another young girl reached out to run her hand across his behind as he made his way to the sliding doors that lead to the yard. He had been pushing his new ‘friends’ trying to get information on the people who could get him a gun.

He had told the young men that he wanted to take down some of the thugs in his neighborhood. After meeting some of them at his apartment in Purgatory, they believed him. The party was to be the meeting place and Vin had brought the money to purchase the gun.

JD agonized over his decision for the full 72 hours. He had not permitted himself to cry. He was weak from hunger and sick to his stomach. He had argued with himself until he was exhausted. He had paced in the confines of the cell and counted the dots in the ceiling tiles. He finally decided that he would at least give the appearance of doing what they wanted but he would not do anything to hurt Darcy.

They came for him at the end of the 72 hours. Agent Felder opened the door. “Well, JD, have you made up your mind? Will you do what we tell you or do we move you to the city jail?”

“I’ll do it. I don’t have to like it but I’ll do it.”

They kept JD with them overnight Saturday and all day Sunday and explained exactly what they expected him to do. They showed him the blueprint for the house and where they hoped he would be able to plant the bugs. They showed him the pictures of the grounds. They showed him pictures of the people they had documented coming and going from the mansion. It was a who’s who of the most powerful gangsters in the territory.

JD returned to class on Monday with a note explaining that there had been a death in the family and that he had attended a funeral in New Hampshire over the weekend. Darcy was waiting for him at his locker when he arrived.

“JD where were you? I was so worried!”

He smiled at her, “Sorry.” He ran his closed fist in a circle on his chest. “My great aunt died and I had to go to the funeral. I couldn’t call and let you know.”

The day went smoothly for JD. He picked up his missed work and headed for his car at the end of the day. He wanted to go to his place and talk to Buck but he knew he had to go to Josiah’s because that was where he ‘lived’ during this mission.

Darcy ran across the parking lot, “JD! Wait! I wanted to know if you wanted to come to my house tonight. We can swim in the pool, maybe order a pizza?”

“I can’t, Darcy, not tonight.” He shifted his books to show her all the work he had. “I have to catch up first. How about another night?”

“Okay. I’m sorry about your great aunt.”

“Thanks. I’ll see you tomorrow, okay?”

He started the Mustang and left the lot. When he got to Josiah’s house, he was relieved. At least he could get a decent night’s sleep and something decent to eat. He walked up to the house and fumbled with his keys. The door opened and he nearly fell into the house.

“Buck! You’re not supposed to be here!”

“I just had to make sure you were okay, kid. Those FBI bastards wouldn’t let us see you anymore after the first night. Are you all right? You look peaked.”

JD walked into the living room and set his books on the table before collapsing on the couch.

“I’m fine, Buck. They just wanted to scare me. Fed me those lousy sandwiches until I was nearly sick but I’m okay, really. I have a lot of work to make up, though, and Ezra really piled it on.”

Josiah and Buck helped JD as much as they could with the homework. Ezra called to tell them that he had pages for the work he had given in class that day. JD sighed in relief that he didn’t have to do all the reading and write the report on top of everything else.

The phone rang later that night. Josiah answered it and held the phone out for JD.

Agent Koch wasted no time on pleasantries, “Agent Dunne, I trust that the next time Miss Bergini invites you to a party at her house that you will not beg off. I don’t care how much homework you have, you are to get inside of that house as soon as possible!”

“How do you know she invited me to a swim party? Have you got my car bugged? How dare you mess with my car? You have no right to touch my car and you have to let me do this my way! If I go blazing in there all eager, her father will put me out!”

He slammed down the phone and stood shaking with rage. Finally, he looked up at Josiah and Buck.

“I’m sorry, Josiah. They just make me so mad! They bugged my car! They want me to go running in there with their bugs. They won’t even let me do this the right way.”

“It’s okay, JD. I’m not upset with you.”

Vin took the .38 from the young man and popped the cylinder open; he checked the barrel to make sure the weapon was capable of being fired. He studied the grips on the gun and turned it to see that the serial number had been filed off. Tucking the weapon into his jeans, he pulled the money from his pocket and paid for the gun. Contact had been made and Tanner knew he could get another gun any time he wanted.

The next day, Darcy repeated her invitation to come and go swimming. He accepted her invitation and agreed to arrive at her house at 6:00 that night. He went to Josiah’s and got his trunks. He arrived at her house and rang the bell. Her father answered the door.

“Mr. Dunne, a pleasure to see you again. I was sorry to hear about your aunt. I wanted to thank you for showing my daughter a good time at the dance last week. And also for having her home on time. Darcy’s out in the pool.”

“You’re welcome, sir. Thank you for letting me take her and for letting me come by tonight to swim.”

He was shown to a restroom to change. He put on his trunks and carefully placed one of the bugs on the underside of the vanity sink before heading out to the pool. Darcy was floating on her back in the middle of the pool. She brightened when she saw him and rolled over to swim to the side.

“Come on in, the water’s great!”

JD stuck his foot in before walking down to the diving board. He walked out to the end of the board and made a cannonball into the pool. Darcy was laughing and wiping the water from her face as he broke the surface at her side. After they had been swimming for a half hour, Darcy’s father came out and called them from the pool to decide what to order for supper.

They dried off when the food arrived and sat around a patio table eating and discussing sports with Mr. Bergini. JD was careful to draw Darcy into the conversation at every opportunity. At 8:30, JD excused himself and went to change out of his trunks so he could go home for the night. Darcy walked him to his car after pulling on a terry wrapper. JD stood by the car door, as Darcy leaned close, he kissed her lightly on the lips.

“I’ll see you at school tomorrow.”

JD saw Darcy at school the next day. She moved up close and tried to kiss him at his locker. He pulled away from her as if burned and looked around to see who was watching. A momentary flash of anger crossed her eyes, followed by a look of sympathy.

“I’m sorry if I embarrassed you.”

JD took her by the arm and led her into an empty classroom. “It isn’t that I’m embarrassed by you. I just wasn’t brought up that way. It makes me uncomfortable.” He brushed her bangs back from her face and caressed her cheek.

There was a nasty turf battle in Purgatory and several members of one gang were killed. Utilizing a lot of sleight of hand, Vin managed to get arrested and booked in connection with the event. It put him in good standing with the young people selling guns at the high school.

JD managed to avoid getting invited to Darcy’s house the rest of the week. On Saturday morning, he went out to jog in the park to clear his head. As he was finishing his circuit of the park, he saw the gray sedan. The two FBI agents were waiting for him.

“Mr. Dunne, would you mind going for a ride with us?”

“Do I have a choice?” He got into the car. Once they pulled away from the curb, he pulled his cell phone and called Buck. “It’s JD, I just wanted you to let Josiah know that the FBI agents have picked me up from my jog. I don’t know how long they will be detaining me.”

“That was unnecessary, Mr. Dunne. We only wanted an opportunity to catch up on our mission. We wanted to remind you that you agreed to plant the bugs in the Bergini house.”

“I did plant a bug. It isn’t like I was allowed to run thru the house. I was shown to a bathroom and then to the pool deck. You have to give me more time!”

“Just don’t forget that I can still have you put in jail with the general population. I’m sure they could show you a thing or two. You might find that you enjoy it!”

JD was repulsed. As soon as they slowed down for a red light, he opened the door and stepped out of the car and took off running. He heard the squeal of the sedan’s tires as he ducked into a fast food restaurant. He made his way to the restroom before becoming sick. Afterwards, as he sat on the toilet trembling, he called Buck and asked him to pick him up.

Buck ran from the apartment. JD sounded shaken. He told Buck that he was in the restroom of the hamburger joint and would not come out until he got there. Buck rolled onto the lot and jumped from the truck in a near-blind rage. If he could have gotten his hands on the FBI agents, he would have throttled them.

Entering the restroom, Buck called softly for JD. He emerged from the stall and turned straight for the door. He didn’t speak at all and he was nearly running when he reached the truck.

It took Buck and Josiah a while to persuade the kid to tell them what the FBI agents had said that had upset him so much. Buck was enraged as he saw the fear in JD’s eyes. He stormed thru the house slamming his fist into his open hand. Josiah moved closer to the young agent but did not touch him.

“We won’t let anything happen to you, son. You know that don’t you?”

“How are you going to stop them? Like you did when they locked me up for three days?”

Josiah left JD on the couch and called Chris. He told the team leader what had happened. Chris called Judge Travis to tell him what the FBI agents were doing to JD. He told the Judge that the team would not allow the FBI agents to terrorize the young agent again.

Vin and the young man, Roger Stone, knocked off the little quick shop as a means of further imbedding him into the gang. He was pushing to meet the others and to be allowed to sell guns to his ‘friends’ in Purgatory. After the robbery, he was taken to a party at a warehouse to meet some of the others.

On Monday, Chris and the other four members of his team met with Judge Travis and Agents Koch and Felder. The tension in the room was electric. If it were not for Josiah and Vin, Buck would have smashed the arrogant smiles from their faces.

“Gentlemen, please be seated. I want to discuss the situation involving Agent Dunne so that there are no misunderstandings. The next time you make a threat against the young man’s physical well being, I will personally have both of your badges. JD Dunne is one of the finest young agents in the ATF or the FBI for that matter. Even if he should decide to pull out of this mission before its completion, rest assured that he would be detained in a safe house of my choosing. If he hears the phrase ‘general population’ again, you will answer to me. Is that clear Agent Koch, Agent Felder?”

Both men nodded curtly before the Judge nodded, dismissing them from the room. The five agents exhaled slowly as the tension in the room dropped to a more manageable level. Judge Travis looked from face to face. They knew that he would not let JD be harmed.

On Tuesday afternoon, JD was invited back to the Bergini house. Darcy wanted help with the homework that Professor Standish had assigned. She had invited two other students who also had the same assignment. One was another deaf student the other was a hearing student who had a deaf parent and could interpret for JD.

It was the perfect opportunity to plant the bugs. JD stashed them in his pocket. During the course of the evening, the group moved from place to place in the house when they began to drift off of the assignment. He dropped one in an artificial plant. When one of the others went to the restroom, JD asked if there was another restroom he could use. Darcy told him to use the one at the top of the stairs.

JD walked the length of the hallway looking into rooms as he passed. He pressed a bug onto one of the blinds at the end of the hall. He went to the bathroom and planted one on the back of the tank. Later in the evening, they went into Mr. Bergini’s study to get a thesaurus. He managed to plant a bug in the room while browsing the titles on the bookshelf.

Vin made contact with several other students from other high schools at the warehouse party. He also made contact with the adults providing the weapons. He overheard the plans for a shipment of guns arriving for distribution that weekend.

By Thursday evening, the FBI agents had all they needed to get the warrants to search the Bergini house. Agent Felder called Josiah’s house and told JD that they were going to execute the warrants the next day. They thanked him for planting the bugs and assured him that his service to the FBI would not go unnoticed.

JD went to school the next day even though Chris had called to tell him that he didn’t have to go anymore. He wanted to see Darcy one more time. He invited her to go for a ride with him after school. She said she would have to call her father to get permission. When she was unable to reach her father at home, she agreed to go with JD for a couple of hours.

He took her out to Chris’s cabin. He told her that Chris was a friend of his dad and that he had been here a few times. He led her to the barn and introduced her to the horses. He saddled Pony and took Darcy for a ride around the pasture. They walked around in the field for a little while, not really talking.

“Something is bothering you, JD. Will you tell me what it is?”

He looked at her knowing that what he was about to tell her would hurt her and probably end their friendship. He studied her face; her innocence was so refreshing to him. She was someone he could have cared for a lot more if he had the time.

“Darcy, I’m not who you think I am. I’m an ATF agent sent undercover to investigate the sale of guns to students at the school. I planted microphones in your house, which allowed the FBI to gather evidence against your father. This afternoon, they raided your house with a warrant for his arrest. That’s probably why you couldn’t get thru to your house today.”

The girl’s green eyes filled with tears. “No! JD, no! Not my daddy! No.”

To his surprise, she stepped into his arms and clung to him and cried. He smoothed her hair and patted her shoulder. She continued to cry for several minutes. JD’s cell phone rang, startling him. He reached into his pocket and pulled it out.

“JD here.”

Chris shouted into the phone, “JD, where in the hell are you?”

“At your cabin with Darcy Bergini.”

“Bring her and get your ass to the hospital! Her father was shot during the raid!”

“We’re on our way!”

He turned Darcy and put her on the horse. They rode quickly down to the barn and unsaddled Pony. He hadn’t told her about her father. He didn’t think he could deal with her if she knew.

They arrived at the hospital and JD pulled Darcy from the car. He led her into the emergency room entrance and was immediately surrounded by the rest of his team. Agent Felder quietly hustled the young woman off to her father’s room.

When the rest of Team 7 left the hospital, JD stayed. He wanted to be there for Darcy if she would allow him to be. He paced outside of Mr. Bergini’s room for over an hour before she came out of the room. He could tell that she had been crying. She came straight to him and buried her face in his shoulder.

“He wants to see you, JD. He’s in bad shape. He lost a lot of blood and they had to repair his liver and lung. Oh, JD, I’m so scared. What’s gonna happen to him? What’s gonna happen to me?”

She led him to her father’s bedside. “Daddy? JD’s here. You wanted to talk to him.”

Mr. Bergini opened his eyes. “Mr. Dunne. So good of you to be here for my princess. I want you to help her if you can. I trust you. You were good to her. See that she stays in school. My sister is coming in to stay with her but Darcy needs someone she knows. I’m not gonna make it, you see.”

“Don’t talk like that Mr. Bergini. You’re gonna pull thru this.”

A few moments later, the heart monitor flat lined and he was gone. JD pulled Darcy from the room and held her in the hallway while the doctors worked on her dad. After a while, the doctor came out and shook his head sadly. He was gone.

Vin stood in the warehouse watching the crates being opened. After verifying the presence of the guns, he gave the signal and Chris stepped out of the shadows.

“ATF! Lay down your weapons and put your hands in the air!”

As agents stepped from every shadow, doorway and corner, the gunrunners surrendered. Wielding a handful of plastic handcuffs, the agents quickly searched and cuffed everyone in the building. As the students were being separated from the adults, several of the teenagers found themselves staring at one of the agents.

An incredulous voice rang out as a young girl was being placed in a van. “Professor Standish? What are you doing here?”

Ezra smiled, his gold incisor flashing in the light. “I’m an ATF agent. I was undercover as a teacher at your school. By the way, you did rather poorly on that last quiz we had, perhaps if you had studied instead of partying and selling guns, you might have passed.”

JD arrived at the funeral and made his way thru the crowd to Darcy’s side. She clung to his hand on one side and her aunt’s hand on the other. JD watched the interpreter as she signed the service. He found it almost hypnotic as he picked out signs he knew.

A few days after the funeral, he got an invitation to visit Darcy. He had returned to his job and she returned to school. She was doing well, all things considered. He kissed her one last time as he left. She was too young for him but he would never forget her. Her innocence in the middle of the corruption around her gave JD hope.


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