Christmas Miracles and Dreams

by Winnie

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+ + + + + + +

“Fat chance of that, Josiah,” the ladies man said as he hung up the phone. He ran his fingers through his hair and cupped his chin before dialing Travis’ emergency number.

+ + + + + + +

Rudy Marshall pulled out his cell phone and dialed his employer’s number. He waited for the call to be accepted and smiled when Harrington’s nervous voice came over the line.


“Mr. Harrington, the goods have been collected and the deposit made. I’ll get back to you as soon as the results are in.”

“You didn’t hurt him, did you?”

“The boy is fine and will remain so, but I can’t say the same for his ‘father’,” Marshall said smiling as Linden cracked his knuckles.

“I don’t give a damn about Larabee, but I don’t want...”

“The boy hurt. Relax, Mr. Harrington, the boy won’t be hurt.” Marshall hung up the phone and moved to the table.

“Are you really going to let them go once we’re finished?” Linden asked.

“Well now the way I see it is that we can’t let them go. After all they’ve seen our faces.”

“So what do we do with them once we find out where the journal is?”

“Kill them of course.”

“Won’t Harrington be upset?”

“Probably, but we’ll have the journal and we’ll just continue where Ray Tanner left off. We’ll blackmail Harrington and make damn sure he can’t do anything to us,” Marshall said.

“Sounds like a plan to me. When do we start on Larabee?”

“Patience, Gregory, we have plenty of time and Mr. Larabee will need to be rested up for the upcoming games,” the smaller man said, smiling as he picked up a scalpel and let the battery operated lamp shine off the razor sharp edge. “Plenty of time to make young Tanner talk and Larabee bleed.”

+ + + + + + +

Cold seemed to surround him except where something was cuddled up against his chest. He groaned and licked at dry lips before opening his eyes and breathing in the familiar scent of the child he was raising as his own. The boy was sleeping, but he seemed to be in the throes of another nightmare as a small whimper escaped the slack lips. He kept his body tight against the sleeping child as the pounding in his skull picked up its pace.

“Nnnnoooo, p…please d…daddy don’t hurt mama!”

The words were whispered against his chest as small hands came up and began hitting him. Chris knew he had to wake Vin up and wished he could wrap him in his arms, but with his wrists cuffed behind him that was not possible.

“Vin, it’s a dream, Cowboy. No one’s going to hurt you,” Larabee tried and was rewarded when the scruffy head lifted and blue eyes met his.


“That’s right, Vin, it’s me.”

“Not a dream?” Vin asked as tears formed in his eyes.

“No, Son, it’s not, but we’ll get out of here,” Larabee assured him as he struggled to sit up. He noticed the coat that covered his upper body and smiled at the child. “Thanks, Cowboy, but I think you need to put your coat on.”

“O…okay, Chris…I’s scared.”

“Me too, Pard, but we’re together and we’ll get out of here together. Okay?”

“’K,” Vin said as he struggled into his coat. He breathed in the scent of the older man’s aftershave and felt some of the terror leave him. He lay down beside the bound man once more and fought back the tears.

“Vin, I want you to promise me something,” Larabee whispered against the top of his ‘son’s’ head. He knew the little boy was trying to be strong and also knew the fear that enshrouded his own heart. The fact that they had both seen their captors did not bode well for them and he knew their captors would not allow them to go free.


“If you get the chance to escape…”

“Ain’t leavin ya, Chris!”

“Vin, you have to. If…” Before he could finish his thoughts the door was opened spilling the bright beam of a flashlight into the basement.

“Well now isn’t that just cozy?” Marshall said as he descended the stairs.

Chris reacted instinctively and shifted his body until he covered the child. He blinked rapidly until the light was moved from his eyes.

“What the hell do you want?” he asked, anger evident in his tone.

“Well, Mr. Larabee, there is some information we need and your son is the only one who can provide us with what we need. Now, Vin, kindly move away from Mr. Larabee.”

“N…no,” Vin stammered as he clung to the bound arms.

“Don’t you touch him,” Larabee spat, shifting his body into an upright position.

Marshall stood at the bottom of the stairs and waited until Linden joined him. He smiled down at the blond and made a move to grab for the boy.

“I’ll kill you before you can hurt him!”

“Oh, we’re not going to hurt Vin, Mr. Larabee. You see he has the information we want tucked inside that little mind of his and, therefore, we can’t take the chance of really hurting him. You, however, are a means to an end. You see little Vin there will either give me what I want or Gregory is going to use his expertise on you. So, Vin.” He looked around the ATF agent and smiled at the frightened child. “Are you going to answer my questions or does Gregory get to play a little one on one with your ‘father’? Your choice, Son!”

“He doesn’t know anything!” Larabee tried as Linden moved to pull Vin from him. “Leave him alone!”

“CHRIS!” Vin screamed as the big man grabbed his arms and tore him away from the safety of Larabee’s body.

Chris heard Vin’s cry of fear and struggled to his feet. He kicked out at Marshall, his booted foot connecting with the man’s stomach and sending him crashing into several empty boxes. Chris pressed his advantage until he heard the sharp cry of pain from his ‘son’. He turned to see Gregory with his arm wrapped around the boy’s neck.

“I’ll snap it if you don’t get down on your knees, Larabee!”

Chris saw Vin’s weakening struggles and knew the boy needed air. Reluctantly he sank to his knees and glared green fire at the man before him. He felt Marshall move in behind him, but his attention was on his son as the big man released his hold.

Vin’s eyes grew wide as he was dropped to the floor. He tried to scream out a warning, but there was still not enough air in his lungs and it came out as a weak gasp. “Chrissssssss!”

Larabee heard the movement behind him, but before he could react something slammed into his right arm and he bit back a cry of pain as his body toppled to the left. White-hot shards of fire engulfed his shoulder and he tried to move away as the crowbar was lifted once more. This time it caught his left leg and again he screamed as the fire ignited there. He could hear two sounds, one a child’s screams and the other a man’s laughter. Using his shoulders he scooted across the floor as his adoptive son raced towards him. A third sound entered his mind and he realized it was coming from his own throat as he fought the waves of nausea that threatened to engulf him.

“Chris…Chris…Chris!” Vin repeated over and over as he wrapped his arms around the writhing blond, rocking his little body back and forth as tears threatened to fall.

“Now, Son, how about answering some questions for me?”

“I…I d…don’t…”

“L…leave him, leave him a…alone,” Larabee finally managed to grind out.

“Gregory, would you stop Mr. Larabee from interrupting my chat with Vin here?”

“My pleasure, Rudy,” Linden said, drawing back his foot and delivering a telling blow to the ATF agent’s lower back.

“NO!” Vin screamed as a muted cry of pain escaped his ‘father’s’ throat.

“I meant with a gag, Gregory,” Marshall explained, shaking his head at his enthusiastic partner.

“Oh, sorry, well this seemed to work faster,” Linden said with a grin.

“Yes, effective too. Now, Vin,” the smooth talking man said as he reached for the boys arm, “Are you willing to answer my questions?”

“I d…don’t know nuttin’,” the boy cried as he listened to the ragged breathing from the blond.

“Oh you know plenty, dear boy, it’s just a matter of finding the key to unlocking what’s inside here!” Marshall said, tapping the child’s head once before Vin pulled away. “And all it takes is for you to think about it.”

“’Bout w…what?” Vin asked.

“About your mother…”


“That’s right and your daddy too. See your daddy gave your mama something to hold on to and there’s only one person who knows where that item is. That’s you, Vin, and I want you to share that information with me.” Marshal reached into his pocket and pulled out the switchblade, smiling as terror shone in the blue orbs.

Chris could hear the man’s voice droning on, but his mind was concentrating on the burning pain in his lower back. The pain in his left leg had eased somewhat but his arm throbbed resoundingly because of the position he’d been cuffed in. Shifting slightly he made sure he was between his captor and the trembling boy. He lifted his gaze and glared green fire at the man before him.

“Let him go and I...I’ll help you find whatever it is you’re looking for!” Larabee tried as his fears for his ‘sons’ life intensified.

“Sorry, Mr. Larabee, but that’s not the way of things. Your only role in this is to be quiet and take whatever Gregory or myself decide to do. For instance at any time I could simply do this!” His hand slashed forward and something sharp bit into the jacket Larabee wore.

Chris gasped as the knife cut into his right side. He knew the heavy jacket had stopped the blade from making a killing blow, but the sharp pain also warned that the knife had cut a furrow along his side. He heard Vin cry out and felt the boy jump over him and stand before their captor.

“Don’tcha touch ‘im no more!” Vin screamed as he struck out at the bigger man. His hands were caught from behind and Gregory held him tight against his chest.

“L…let him go!” The blond warned and turn onto his back before striking out at Linden. His foot connected with the man’s ankle, but it did little to affect the way he held the child.

“Quite the temper your son has, Mr. Larabee, but I’m sure we’ll be able to dampen it quite a bit before long. Now, Vin, you can save your ‘father’ a lot of unnecessary pain if you just tell me where your daddy’s journal is.”

“J...journal?” the boy asked, frowning as the man used his finger and thumb to wipe the blood from the blade.

“That’s right,” Marshall smiled as the light from the flashlight caught the boy’s eyes. “That’s right, Son, you do know what a journal is don’t you, Vin?”

“Uhuh,” the boy answered, watching as the tip of the blade was placed under his father’s chin.

“It’s a book that people write important things in so they don’t forget them. Now I know your daddy had a journal that didn’t belong to him and I also know that he gave it to your mama to hold on to. See, your daddy and me spent some time together in jail before he died and he said you were the only one alive who could tell him the journal’s location. Now, I really do need the information on those pages and so I’m going to give you a little time to think about its location. When Gregory and I come back you’d better have the answers I want or Mr. Larabee will suffer for your forgetfulness. Do you understand?”

Vin nodded his head and watched as a single droplet of Larabee’s blood formed on the tip of the blade and slowly slid down towards the hated man’s hand. He swallowed back the fear and lifted his blue eyes until they met Marshall’s cold orbs.

“Now, Vin, you’re a smart boy and I know you won’t do anything stupid. I’m going to give you an hour to think about what I’ve said and then we’re going to get down to some serious questions and I do hope you have the right answers. Mr. Larabee, I would advise you to rest while you can because Gregory is very good at what he does.”

“G...go to h...hell!” Larabee exclaimed as the blade was removed and he dropped the rest of the way to the floor.

“Perhaps some day I will do just that, but for now I’ll simply enjoy putting you there. Come, Gregory, for some reason question and answer periods always make me hungry.” Marshall smiled as he stood up and Linden released the child. He watched as the boy reached his ‘father’ and clung to him for dear life, before he turned and walked up the stairs.

“C...Chris,” Vin called as he tried to read Larabee’s face.

“I...I’m okay, Vin. J...just give me a m...minute.” The ATF agent assured the boy as he finally managed to get the pain and nausea under control.

“I’s s...sorry, Chris...”

“Hey, slugger, hold on there! You have nothing be sorry for,” Larabee said as he tried to maneuver himself into a sitting position. He couldn’t help but smile as the boy clung to his left arm and tried to help him up.

“Think can make it to the b...bed?” Vin stammered and saw the big man nod as they struggled to their feet.

Chris hopped towards the mattress Vin called a bed and sank gratefully onto the softer surface. He smiled in spite of the pain and wished he could hug his ‘son’, but his arms were still secured behind his back.

“Vin,” he waited for the boy to look at him and cursed inwardly at the guilt hidden in the sad blue eyes before the head dropped back down. “Come on, Son, look at me.”

“I c...can’t, Chris, fault...”

“No, it’s not, son, look at me!” Larabee said with a little more force until the shaggy head lifted once more and blue eyes met green. “None of this is your fault, Vin. You’re not to blame for whatever your father did and you’re certainly not to blame for whatever is in the journal. These men aren’t doing this because of you. They’re doing this because they want whatever is in that journal. Do you know where it is?”

“, Chris and they’s gonna hurtcha ‘cause of me!”

“Not because of you, Son, but because they want what doesn’t belong to them. Whatever happens you have to believe what I’m saying, because if you don’t then whatever happens is going to be on my conscience for the rest of my life. I need you to get away...”

“No…can’t leave ya!”

“Listen to me, Vin. I’m not asking you to leave me!” Larabee assured him. “I’m asking you to get help. I don’t know how bad my knee is, but I don’t think I’ll be able to walk very far so I have to rely on your courage to get help when the time comes. Do you think you can do that for me, Son?”

“I...I’ll try, Chris, but how a...are we gonna get out of here?”

“Well, first thing we need to do is search for a window. If it’s big enough maybe we can both escape, but if it’s not it’ll be up to you to get help, Vin!” Larabee knew the boy would not survive long in the cold, but he also knew Vin Tanner would die at the hands of the two men once they found the location of the journal.

“O...okay,” the boy said and picked up the light.

“W...where s...should I start?”

“Try the wall in front of us,” Larabee ordered and watched the retreating form. He leaned his head back against the wall and realized he should’ve had Vin help him with the wound in his side, but right now he wanted to know if there was a means of escape before their captors returned. He knew the wound was still bleeding, but it had slowed some with the advancing cold. He looked up as Vin returned and smiled as the child covered him with the blanket. “Thanks, Son!”

“Welcome,” Vin said, pulling his jacket closer around himself before going in search of a window once more.

+ + + + + + +

Josiah watched as the police and FBI agents combed the area surrounding the truck. So far they’d come up empty and he knew the snow was wreaking havoc with the investigation. So far the only object they’d found was a broken syringe and it had already been sent to the lab for analysis. He heard the sound of an approaching vehicle and looked up as Jackson’s familiar four-wheel drive suburban pulled in behind his Cherokee. The profiler hurried towards them as the two men exited the rig.

“Anything new, Josiah?” Jackson asked.

“This damn storm is making it hard to find anything! Jeff Wilkins from team three found a syringe near the truck, but that’s about all they’ve uncovered.”

“Any idea as to what substance was inside the syringe?” Standish asked as he pulled on a pair of gloves.

“No, but it’s on its way to the lab as we speak.”

“Have you talked with Buck since you called us?” the medic asked.

“I spoke with him a few minutes ago. JD’s sleeping right now, but Buck’s a nervous wreck. He wants to be here, but I told him there’s not much we can do right now and JD’s going to need him when he wakes up,” Sanchez explained as two members of team three continued to go over the interior of the truck with a fine tooth comb.

“I called Travis and told him what’s happening and he’s putting a priority on this,” Jackson told Sanchez.

“Good,” Sanchez said, shaking his head at the helplessness he felt at the situation.

“Was Chris working on anything new that could warrant his disappearance?” Standish asked.

“I don’t think so. Everything our team’s been working on has passed through our desks several times. There are only three cases that are still under investigation and I asked Buck to look into those on his home computer,” Sanchez explained.

“Maybe it has something to do with the upcoming trial,” Standish suggested.

“Could be, but so far none of my snitches has anything new on that one. It seems Enrique Ramirez has decided not to follow through on that contract on Chris. I believe his superiors were adamant that he take the fall for what he brought on their family name,” Jackson told them as they made their way towards the truck.

“Anything, Jeff?” Sanchez asked?

“Got plenty of prints off the interior and one partial off the passenger side door,” the silver haired agent answered.

“Chris had the outside washed yesterday,” Jackson explained about the lack of prints on the outside.

“So this could possibly be his or...”

“Or whoever took him and Vin,” Sanchez finished.

“There’s nothing that points to kidnapping, Josiah,” Jeff explained.

“What about the syringe?” Standish asked.

“We don’t know if that was used on either Chris or Vin. It could’ve been thrown out of a car by some junkie...”

“I don’t think so, Jeff. It’s too much of a coincidence that it was found close to Chris’ truck,” Jackson said as they watched the second agent drop several small items into evidence bags before tagging them.

“I think you’re probably right, Nathan, but we have to look at this from every angle. Why don’t you boys go out to the ranch and we’ll call as soon as we have some definitive answers,” Jeff suggested.

“Not on your life, Jeff. This is our team leader and his son we’re talking about and until this scene has been gone over with a fine tooth comb we’re not leaving,” Sanchez vowed and watched as the team continued to investigate the truck and surrounding area.

+ + + + + + +

Buck glanced at the sleeping boy and hoped he’d stay that way until they had some good news to tell him or Chris and Vin walked through the door. Somehow he knew the latter would not happen anytime soon. He looked at the small nativity scene lovingly created by the two boys at an arts and crafts show at the Cherry Creek Shopping Center the day before. The boys were so proud of the way they’d colored, Mary, Joseph and the Baby Jesus and had set them into the straw filled box. The three wise men were on their knees in front of the manger and each held a gift for the baby. He smiled as he looked at the gifts and knew they’d come from the little boy’s hearts. Instead of the usual gifts there were toys for the baby to play with and a blanket to keep warm. He knew JD had placed the small horse next to one of the wise men, while Vin placed a little red wagon and a blanket next to the other two. His eyes shone with unshed moisture as he looked at the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes.

‘Please, bring them home safe,’ he silently prayed before looking out into the storm once more.

+ + + + + + +

“Chris!” the child’s voice was low, but Chris heard the excitement as Vin returned to sit beside him.

“Did you find something, Vin?” Larabee asked, pushing himself into a sitting position once more. His left knee had swollen and stiffened up in the short time the boy had been searching the basement and Chris bit back a cry of pain as he adjusted his lower body.

“I saw a window, Chris, but it’s high and I can’t reach it...”

“That’s okay, Son,” Larabee assured him. “Where is it?”

“Behind those boxes, but it's not very big!” the boy said, his eyes round as saucers in the meager light.

“That’s okay, Vin, all we need to do is get you...” Before the ATF agent could finish his thoughts the door to the basement opened and two sets of footsteps could be heard as they descended into the basement. A bright circle of light soon engulfed them and he couldn’t help but feel a sense of pride as Vin moved to protect him.

“Well, how sweet. Are you setting yourself up as Mr. Larabee’s champion, young Vin?” Marshall laughed as the small child glared up at him, his hands fisted at his side.

“Don’tcha touch ‘im!” Vin warned as the second captor moved towards them.

“You know how to stop this, Vin,” Marshall said, reaching for the boy as Gregory grabbed Larabee by the arms and pulled him into a standing position.

“You want him upstairs, Rudy?” Linden asked.

“Of course, I do abhor staying longer than a few minutes in this squalor and well, I have plans for Mr. Larabee and young Vin here.” He pulled the boy away from the ATF agent and smiled as he whispered in the child’s ear. “Fight me and I’ll have Gregory break your ‘father’s’ arm right now! Understand?”

“Y...yeah,” the boy said and ceased his struggles.

“Now, Mr. Larabee, the same goes for you! If you don’t come upstairs under your own steam then you leave me no recourse but to break this young man’s arm or leg or anything else I have a mind too. Understood?”

“I’ll kill you for this, Rudy!” Larabee vowed as he limped towards the stairs.

“I’m sure you’d like to try,” Marshall said pulling the boy up into the light as Linden shoved his prisoner forward.

+ + + + + + +

Frustrated, tired, and half frozen the three ATF agents made their way towards their respective cars and knew their was nothing more to be done until the results of the findings were delivered to them. Travis had told them he would make sure the information was forwarded to the ranch as soon as it was made known to him. The snow had finally stopped and the truck was being towed back to headquarters so it could be gone over again by a team of experts.

“Josiah, we’ll see you at the ranch,” Jackson said as he climbed in behind the steering wheel.

“All right, Nathan, I’ll be there as soon as everything’s wrapped up here. Tell Buck Jeff’s team did a good job.”

“Certainly, Mr. Sanchez. I’ll make sure there’s plenty of coffee on hand,” Standish agreed as he climbed into the suburban and Jackson turned on the heat.

“Sounds good, Ezra. Be careful, Nathan, the roads are still icy.”

“I will, Josiah, don’t stay here too long,” the medic warned as he drove away.

Sanchez stood for several moments, watching as the remaining police officers continued to comb the area for evidence. He knew they’d already checked the surroundings several times and understood they were doing this because not only was Larabee a fellow law enforcement officer, but because there was a child involved as well. Two of the worst case scenarios and they affected everyone involved.

“Josiah, why don’t you go on up to the ranch. I’ll make sure you get copies of all the reports,” Wilkins assured him.

“Are you boys done here?”

“Yes, we are. There’s nothing more we can do. The snow has already covered any of the tracks that might have been left by an assailant’s car. The only footprints are our own and until we get the results back there’s not much more we can do.”

“I know, Jeff, but I think I’ll take one more look around.”

“You want me to stay?”

“No. Thanks anyway, Jeff, but sometimes it’s easier to think things through when I’m alone,” the profiler explained and nodded his thanks before moving towards the site where the truck had been. The emptiness he felt inside surrounded him as the last of the officers left the scene. His eyes panned the area, hoping and praying he’d see something that would give him some clue as to where Chris Larabee and Vin Tanner were.

+ + + + + + +

Chris winced as his wrists were released and his right arm dropped uselessly by his side, pain radiating from his elbow to his shoulder. He wanted to strike out at the smug man standing eight feet in front of him, but the blade at his ‘son’s’ throat made him think twice about it.

“Remove your jacket, Mr. Larabee!” Marshall ordered, gesturing with his knife towards Vin’s throat.

Chris clenched his teeth as he was forced to remove his outer jacket and stood facing the man once more. It wasn’t long before he found himself shoved up against a wall devoid of any decoration except a set of cuffs locked around a heavy-duty meat hook.

“All right, Mr. Larabee, if you would be so kind as to attach one manacle to your left wrist we can get on with this session.” Marshall watched as several emotions warred for dominance on the handsome features and smiled in spite of the seething hatred he saw there. “Time’s wasting, Mr. Larabee.”

Chris knew he had no choice as he placed his left hand into the cuff and felt Linden snap it tightly around his wrist. He bit back a cry of pain as his right arm was grabbed and jerked sharply upwards and the second cuff was locked in place. He faced his nemesis, cold hatred building to a burning desire to see this man torn limb from limb.

“Very good,” Marshall said releasing the boy and forcing him to sit on a broken chair. “Now, Vin, I’m going to ask you this once more and if I don’t get the right answer, well, your ‘father’ will pay the price! Where is the journal?”

“I...I don’t k...know,” Vin stammered and tried to pull away as Gregory moved to stand in front of the handcuffed prisoner. He watched, as if in slow motion, as the big man’s hand formed a fist and was aimed to strike at Larabee.

“NO!” he screamed and renewed his efforts to get free as the blow landed to the ATF agent’s midsection.

Chris readied himself for the blow he knew was coming, but was still not fully prepared when the huge fist slammed into his gut. The air escaped his lungs in an agonizing sound that bespoke of a great deal of pain. Before Chris had a chance to regain a semblance of equilibrium a second fist landed to the right of the first, a third and fourth following in rapid succession until he hung by his arms from the hook and tried to breathe past the pain. He heard Vin cry out again and again and lifted his head until he met the moisture laden blue orbs.

‘Stay strong, Vin,’ he sent through the strong connection he had with the boy and saw a small nod before his attention was pulled back to the man standing before him. A fist connected with the right side of his face and his head was rocked back and connected solidly with the wall behind him. He saw stars, but continued to hold on to consciousness as again and again Gregory’s fist slammed into his body. He could hear the other man speaking to Vin, but he did not have the strength to decipher the words. Chris lifted his head once more and felt blood run from several cuts on his face and forehead. He looked towards the boy and tried to feel the connection, but all he felt was the child’s agonizing fears and he knew this was as hard on the child as it was on him.

‘I’m sorry, Vin,’ he thought as unconsciousness finally claimed a victory and drew him into the waiting abyss.

+ + + + + + +

Buck looked up from the computer as the door opened and Jackson and Sanchez entered. The two men dusted the snow off their boots before removing them and reaching for the shoes they kept on hand.

“Coffee’s hot and strong,” Wilmington called as they hung up their coats.

“Did you make it?” Jackson asked.

“Well, it wasn’t JD!” the weary man snapped, apologizing immediately as he realized what he’d said.

“Where’s young master Dunne?” Standish asked as the medic headed for the kitchen.

“He’s still sleeping. I called Mrs. Wells and asked if she could come out and keep an eye on him while we search for Chris and Vin,” Wilmington explained.

“I take it there’s still no word?” the gambler said, a statement rather than a question.

“Nothing. Not a damned thing since Josiah called. Where is he anyway?”

“He’s trying to see what he can find out at the scene. Jeff’s team was very thorough and what little evidence they found is probably at the lab, but you know Josiah and his tendency to trust in his own instincts.”

“Jeff’s good, but he doesn’t have Josiah’s knack for picking up on things,” Wilmington said as Jackson returned with three cups of coffee.

“So, is Mrs. Wells coming over?” the medic asked.

“Yes, she should be here sometime around lunch.” He turned to the door as a pajama-clad boy entered the room. One hand clutched tightly to his Tigger while the other rubbed at sleep-drenched eyes.

“Buck,” the boy said through a wide yawn.

“Hey, Li’l Bit, I thought you were still sleeping.” Wilmington quickly lifted the small boy into his arms and hugged him as he ruffled the dark hair.

“I was, but I can’t find Vin. His bed’s empty.”

“I know it is, Son...”

“Where is he, Buck?”

“I don’t know right now, JD, but we’re going to find him,” the mustached man looked up at his two friends and could see the truth in those words mirrored in their eyes. One way or the other they would work together until Chris and Vin were home where they belonged.

+ + + + + + +

Vin sat on the floor his hands wrapped tightly around his knees as he rocked back and forth. His gaze remained fixed on the bound ATF agent, his mantra repeating like a broken record in the quiet room.

“I don’t know...I don’t know...I don’t know...”

“Look at me, Vin,” Marshall tried as Gregory moved towards the battered form with a bucket of water in his hands.

“I don’t know...I don’t know...I don’t know...”

“Yes, you do, Son and if you don’t think really fast your ‘father’ is going to suffer some more...”

“I don’t know...I don’t know...I don’t know...”

“Wake him,” Marshall ordered as Linden pulled back the bucket and sent the frigid water into Larabee’s face. A loud moan escaped from their prisoner and Rudy smiled as he got the reaction he wanted from the boy.

“NO! Chris...please don’ more...”

“You can stop it, Vin, but you have to answer my question. Where is the journal?”

“Don’t hurt Chris no more,” the child whimpered as he watched the green eyes fight to open. The left side of the blond’s face was totally engulfed in a vivid array of colors stemming from a cut above the eyebrow and Vin’s gaze seemed glued to that spot.

“Well, Son, that’s entirely up to you. All you have to do is tell me where the journal is.”

“I told you I don’t ‘member!”

“More’s the pity. Look at him, Vin, how much more do you think your ‘father’ can take?”

“L…leave h...him,” the blonds voice was hardly recognizable through the swollen split lips, but it brought life back to the child’s face as the blue eyes met green.


“Oh no you don’t, Vin. Stay right here while I go to work! Gregory, would you mind making sure young Tanner has a front row seat?”

“Of course, Rudy,” Linden said with a smile as he placed his hands on the boy’s shoulders.

“See this knife, Vin, it can do so much damage,” Marshall warned as he cut away the buttons on Larabee’s shirt.

Vin gasped as he caught sight of the heavily bruised chest and knew he had to find some way to stop this. His mind was centering on a plan as the blade cut a thin line across the battered ribs, blood oozing up from the wound. He lost track of the times that the blade landed and finally cried out.

“I know...I know...”

“What do you know, Vin?”

“I know where it is!”

“Where?” Marshall asked turning to face the child once more.

“It’s in the buildin’ where mama and me lived. Mama hidded it in the back of the closet!”

“Are you telling me a lie, Vin?”

“! It’s there! I know it is. Mama said it was the best hidin’ place and daddy wouldn’t find it!”

“Very good, son, but if this is a lie your ‘father’ will pay the full price. Now, Vin, you are talking about the house in Purgatorio aren’t you?”


“Okay, Gregory, throw them back in the basement and lock the place up. The kid’s not strong enough to break out of here, but you can make sure Larabee’s chained up until we get back!”

“Sure, Rudy, come on, Kid,” Linden said as he dragged the boy to the basement and waited for him to descend into the darkness. He waited for Marshall to take his place before moving to lift Larabee’s arms from the meat hook and drag him the short distance to the basement stairs.

“I’ll be in the car,” Marshall said when Linden was at the bottom of the stairs with the battered blond.

“I’ll be right out!” Gregory assured him as he dropped the unconscious man onto the mattress. “You’d better be telling the truth, kid, because I’m really looking forward to my next go at your ‘father’!”

Vin watched as the big man secured Larabee to the mattress and climbed the stairs. The flashlight had been left behind and Vin reached for it before moving towards his ‘father’ and sitting down beside him. He knew they were in trouble and that he had to get help before their captors returned empty handed. The journal was not there, but he couldn’t remember where it was and that angered him. He looked at Larabee’s face and reached out to touch him as a soft moan escaped the swollen lips.

“Chris, I’s sorry, Chris…I’s sorry…”

“N…not your fault, Vin.”

“Is my fault. Stupid…can’t remember!”

“Not s…stupid, Vin. You’re one of the smartest boys around. Y…you saved yourself and JD…”

“Tha’s dif’rent.”

Larabee smiled in spite of the pain it caused his swollen face. He shifted on the bed and wondered just how badly he was hurt as he felt warm blood on his bare chest even as pain washed over him. He bit back groan as Vin reached out for him.


“I’m okay, Vin. Where’d they go?”

“I told ‘em where the journal is, Chris, but I lied cause I don’t ‘member and thay’s gonna come back and hurt ya and I’m scared Chris…”

“Hey, easy, Son. You did good by pretending you knew where it was.”

“I did?” the boy frowned as he watched his father’s face in the light cast by the flashlight he held.

“Course you did. How long ago did they leave?” Larabee asked, fighting to stay conscious in the wake of the mounting pain and nausea.

“They just left. Why?”

“That’s great, Son, it gives you time to get out…”

“Can’t leave ya, Chris…”

“You’re not leaving me, Vin. You’re going for help. You can’t unlock the chains and even if you could I don’t think I could get out of here, Son, so that means it’s up to you.”

“But the window’s so high!”

“I know, but you could push some of those crates over and climb up on them. Then you break the window and climb out.”

“I don’t know, Chris.”

“I do, Vin. It’s the only way. It’s gonna be cold and I don’t know how long we’ve been here or even where we are, but if you stay here they’ll…”

“K…kill us,” Vin said his voice trembling fearfully. “I’ll go, Chris, but ya gotta promise me ya’ll be h…here when I…I get back!”

“I promise I’ll try, Vin…”

“NO! Ya gotta promise ya’ll be here or I’s not leavin’ ya, Chris!”


“Promise me, Chris!”

“I promise I’ll do my best. That’s all I can promise, Vin. Now get going before it’s too late.” He saw the tears in the blue eyes and wished he could hold the child close, but his hands were bound tightly behind him and seemed to be attached to something immovable. “I love you, Son.”

“I love ya ta, P…Pa,” Vin said and wrapped his arms around Larabee. He stayed that way for a few minutes, drinking in the scent he associated with Chris Larabee and finally stood up. His small frame shivered in the cold, but his face was set with grim determination. “I’ll be back, Chris! I promise!”

Larabee smiled thinly as his adoptive son turned towards the back of the basement. “Vin.”


“You need your coat and you need to be careful of the glass once you break he window. Use the old blanket to cover the shards before you climb through.”

“But you need the blanket.”

“I’m not cold, Vin, Just pass me my coat and I’ll be fine. Take the flashlight and try to flag down a car, just make sure it’s not Linden or Marshall. If the snows bad maybe you’ll see a plough out there. Just be careful, okay?”

“I will, Chris,” Vin said as he wrapped the blanket Larabee’s shoulders before turning, picking up the flashlight and hurrying towards the back of the basement. He looked around and shifted some of the smaller crates until he had four piled on top of each other. He felt the tears falling from his eyes at leaving the older man, but the truth was he had to get them help before it was too late. Panning the floor with the flashlight he spotted a chunk of wood and hurried to pick it up before climbing the makeshift ladder. Once at the top he used the wood and broke the small pane of glass.

“Vin, are you okay?”

“I’s fine, Chris! It’s cold out, but the snow has stopped. I’s gonna get some help fer ya.”

“I know you will, Son. Just be careful!”

Vin knew there was no choice now as he grabbed for the blanket he’d placed on the crate beside him and quickly covered the small shards left in the window frame with it. His breath was white in the sunlight and he shivered as he dropped onto the snow covered ground. Vin stood and looked around until he saw the tracks leading out of the driveway and knew he needed to follow them until he found the road. Once there he would have to be careful until he found someone to help him.

“I’ll be back, Chris!” he vowed as he forced his way through the deep drifts and shoved the flashlight into the pocket of his coat.

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