Disclaimer: The following is a work of fan fiction. The characters
of Magnificent 7 are owned by and copyrighted to CBS, MGM, The Trilogy
Entertainment, every one in the western world but me. Taking them out to
play and promise to return them, no matter how much I want to keep them.
Quandary-a state of uncertainty; perplexing situation or position;
Quandary, a word Ezra might use to describe Chris Larabee at the moment.
At least, he might if he were conscious.
Larabee sat with his head down, his elbows propped on the chair arms. His
fingers were laced together so tightly that his knuckles were red, while
his fingers were purple from lack of blood flow. Suddenly remembering that
his youngest agent had been sitting in the exact position only a few hours
before, he tore his hands apart and jumped to his feet, startling the men
sitting around him.
Nathan looked at Josiah, an unanswerable question written in the large dark
eyes; What can we do. The man before them was coming apart at
the seams and neither man was sure how to stop it. Jackson could stop the
flow of blood when they were bleeding and he could set a bone, but the mind
was out of his realm. That area fell into Josiah's field of expertise.
Unfortunately, Josiah's worried eyes shone with the same lack of inspiration
Normally, Buck, or Vin, would be the one to deal with the man in black, but
neither of them was available at the moment and therein lay the problem.
Vin Tanner occupied the bed next to the chair Larabee had just vacated and
Buck Wilmington was down two floors, in a similar room with his own partner.
Jackson and Sanchez watched the pacing form of the team leader and waited.
Maybe Vin would awaken, or perhaps it would be Ezra, who occupied the second
bed in the room. Buck might possibly abandon JD Dunne's side and join them.
Or maybe, and far more likely, they would have to figure out what to say
to help the blond deal with having three agents down with injuries and the
knowledge that he had been the catalyst that put one of them in that position.
"I'm going outside for a minute. Call me if either of them starts to wake
up," Chris instructed the two men. He failed to notice that both men jumped
at the sudden words after the long silence. Throwing the door open, he marched
out into the hallway.
Jackson and Sanchez glanced at each other and breathed a sigh of relief.
The tension in the room had been thick. Silently shaking their heads, the
men relaxed into their chairs, both silently hoping Larabee could work out
a few things before he made another appearance in the hospital room.
+ + + + + + +
Chris stormed down the hall and through the door leading to the stairs. He
started down with the intention of walking off some of the tension that had
him wound tight, but he found himself reentering the hospital two floors
down and moving down the hall to the room where JD Dunne lay. Larabee stood
at the door, hesitating. He stepped back and dropped his head as he leaned
against the far wall, trying to gather his nerve. He glanced up and down
the hall, looking for any excuse to not go in. There was nothing. He knew
what needed to be done and steeled himself to do it. Taking a deep breath,
he stepped across the hall and pushed open the door.
He stepped into the room and froze. Buck sat, head in hand, next to the bed
where the youngest member of the team lay. As many times as Chris had seen
his men injured, it never came easy for him to see it yet again. He knew
Buck had heard him enter, but the man did not acknowledge the intrusion.
Chris took a deep breath and approached.
Buck? Hows he doing?
Wilmington did not move for several moments and then he turned to look at
the team leader. His eyes were deep sunk and red rimmed, with dark shadows
marring the skin underneath. Whether it was from fatigue or tears, Larabee
was unsure, but that was anger in the blue eyes was obvious, rolling off
the agent in waves, and aimed at straight at his old friend and boss. The
blond knew he deserved the look, but it did nothing to lessen the blow.
Hes still out. They're saying there may have been too much blood
loss, a lack of oxygen to the brain according to the doctor. Buck stood
and moved closer to his old friend. He lowered his voice, but the venom was
still evident in his words, in his posture, and in his eyes. He may
never wake up. Or IF he does, he may not be JD again. Hes strapped
down and under observation. Theyve got a kid that wanted nothing more
than to be the best agent he could be, who only wanted to stand on equal
footing with the people he worked with, who wanted the great
Chris Larabee to see him as something other than a computer geek, theyve
got that kid, that good hearted, wonderfully optimist, see only the
good in people kid on suicide watch.
Bucks blue eyes grew darker with rage as he leaned in close to Larabee
and hissed, How do you think he is?
Chris did not move away from the intense emotions that radiated from the
taller man. He stood and listened to the words, knowing that every one of
them was true.
Buck, I dont know what I can say. I never thought JD
Shut up. The words were low, hissed in a tight whisper of breath,
but full of venom as Wilmingtons face twisted into mask of fury.
Larabee had never seen the normally jovial man this livid, not at him.
Wilmington continued, Dont talk to me about what you never
thought, cause he never would. He didnt, couldnt.
Unlike you, he values life. He would stand up and face his problems, not
try to escape by crawling off into some hole to die. Or into some bottle.
Chris eyes flared as his jaw tensed. Dont make judgments,
Buck. Youve never been there.
Never been there? I lived it the same as you. Wilmington pressed
forward, forcing the blond back a step. I may not have been married
to Sarah or fathered Adam, but I loved em as much as you. I didnt
dive into a bottle. Even if I had wanted to, I didn't have time. I had better
things to do; like preventing my best friend from jumping into the grave
right alongside em. I did what I had to keep that part of my past alive,
to continue living. Just the same as that boy would do.
Buck backed away and Chris relaxed the fists that his hands had folded themselves
Wilmington spoke with his back turned to the blond. JD did not try
to kill himself and Ill prove it. As soon as he wakes up, and I know
that he's okay, Ill prove it, to you
His hand waved to
the mirrored wall.
Larabee took a step forward, only to have Buck step back over to the bed,
blocking his view of the pale form lying there.
Get out. Now. I dont want you around the kid until this is
Chris mouth was tight in anger, his eyes narrowed, as he stared at
the other mans back. He thought about Tanner and Standish lying upstairs,
injured and unconscious. He remembered the scene in the warehouse the day
before and then the scene at the apartment that Buck and JD shared later
that same day. The last thirty-six hours had taken on nightmarish aspects
for the Team Seven leader. The images froze him into inaction for a moment
and then he shook his head to clear them away. Finally, the slighter man
nodded before turning and walking from the room.
THIRTY-SIX HOURS EARLIER
Okay, everyone set? Chris asked.
Six heads nodded. Chris stood and the men followed his lead. As they moved
from the conference room back to the main office, Larabee stopped next to
JDs desk. The youngest member of the team had had nothing but trouble
for the past two weeks, what with lost files, malfunctioning equipment. The
normally cautious agent had been involved in two minor traffic accidents.
He had suffered through a rash of lost keys, late court appearances, and
JD, I want you to double check the audio equipment.
Hazel eyes looked at the blond. I already checked it three times, but
Ill do it again. The young man was grim-faced as he stood and
Buck heard the exchange and frowned. He stepped up behind Larabee as the
boy walked away.
You really think that was necessary? No need to undermine the kids
Turning cool green eyes on the mustached man, Larabee responded with,
Seven men are going in. I want seven to come out. Its not my
plan to undermine JD, just want everyone to do their job.
Dont you worry about JD. Hell do his job, same as everyone
on the team. Wilmingtons voice had a hard edge to it that he
usually reserved for suspects.
Never expected anything less, Buck. Chris went into his office,
closing the door behind him.
One hour later, the seven headed out.
+ + + + + + +
You got a line?
Chris turned in his seat. Josiah sat beside him, with Nathan and JD in the
back. Ezra and Buck were just pulling up, ready to make a deal with a gunrunner
for dozens of stolen automatic pistols.
The car rolled into the warehouse with Buck driving. He parked the car just
inside and both agents got out and moved further into the cavernous interior.
Chris sat leaning forward, as they listened to the exchange. A lot of small
talk and a little business conversation continued for several minutes, but
finally Ezra spoke the magic word and Larabee gave the go to move in.
The four men exited the surveillance van and headed into the warehouse. JD
followed Chris to the left while Josiah and Nathan headed right. Chris glanced
up to see Vin in the rafters, his rifle trained on the suspect, Jake Stillman.
A quick nod and Chris stood up, ATF! Nobody move.
The sure sign of a small time crook was for him to believe he could fight
his way out. Jake Stillman was a small timer. He, and the four men with him,
went for their guns. Shots were fired as everyone dove for cover. Buck had
been standing at the back of the van that carried the illegal weapons, supposedly
examining them as Ezra stood next to Stillman. The two agents dove, taking
cover in opposite directions. Seeing the two men diving under anything for
protection, Chris directed JD to go left and provide cover to Standish. Larabee
indicated he would cover Wilmington. With a quick nod, the young agent moved
The next few minutes were a bewildering patchwork of movement and sounds.
Chris could hear Vins rifle barking from high above, but he could not
make contact with any of his agents as once again the audio equipment failed.
Larabee swore as he slapped at the transmitter hanging on his belt. He peered
around a corner and saw Buck just in front of him. He moved forward, calling
to the man to announce his presence. Buck turned his head slightly, grinned
and gave him a thumbs up before turning back to the action.
The suspects were quickly subdued and cuffed. Nathan and Josiah had managed
to take down three men, while Vin had taken down Stillman and a second gunrunner.
Chris and Buck moved out and joined the others. They were there only a moment
before they heard JD call out.
Buck nodded as he helped Josiah restrain the prisoners. Larabee and Jackson
moved off to the area Chris had last seen JD. Rounding a stack of crates,
they found JD bending over Ezra, blood seeping through his fingers as he
pressed on the undercover agents abdomen. Nathan dropped down next
to the wounded man and, pulling his pack open, applied a pressure bandage
to the wound.
The medic glanced up and nodded. Larabee relaxed at the gesture. JD had risen
quickly. He watched the exchange before moving off. Chris eyes followed
the young agent, but he did not move. Hearing the young mans voice,
though, he stood and headed in that direction.
Vin, stay down. Nathan will be here in a minute. You need to stay
The urgent words had Larabee stepping up his pace to quickly locate the two
young men. Vin?
The lanky Texan was trying to sit up, mumbling incoherently. JD held the
man down as he talked to him.
Chris squatted on the other side and helped to restrain the sharpshooter.
Vin struggled for a bit and then faded as consciousness deserted him. He
relaxed into the arms of the blond and Chris gently lowered him to the concrete
floor. A quick check found a knot and deep, bleeding gash on the younger
mans head. Chris looked at the dark haired agent squatted on the opposite
What the hell happened? Whats Vin doing down here?
JD shook his head. I was coming over to help Ezra when I heard something
off to the side. I couldnt see anything, but I thought one of the suspects
must have gotten around behind us. I glanced up and Vin was looking at me,
so I signaled that I was going to check. Vin acknowledged.
Why didnt you just stick with Ezra? I told you to cover
Before JD could answer, Buck and Nathan joined them as assistance for Ezra
had arrived in the form of paramedics and Team Three. Nathan had watched
as the paramedics assessed the condition of the southerner and then loaded
him into an ambulance for transport to the hospital. Seeing the undercover
agent was taken care of, Jackson went in search of the three missing team
members with Buck following along, arriving as Larabee began to question
their young team member.
Buck stood at JDs back as Nathan moved to squat at Vins side.
Chris released the Texan into the medics capable care and stood, glaring
at the young man as he asked again, Why didnt you stay with Ezra,
Vin indicated that he had it. I
"IT?" Chris snarled.
JD's eyes widened at the tone, but he continued. "Ezra. He had Ezra's back.
I moved off..." his hand waving in the general direction he had taken.
that way and when I got back, this is how I found 'em"
"Did you see anything, JD?" Buck asked softly.
The dark hair swayed as he shook his head. Nathan's voice drew the three
men's attention back to the injured sharpshooter.
"Buck, why don't you take JD and tell the paramedics we have another injured
man over here?"
Wilmington placed his hand on JD's shoulder to lead him away from the angry
blond, but the young man stopped and turned to the dark skinned medic.
" 's he going to be okay, Nathan?"
"Yeah. You know this Texan is hard headed, boy. He'll be just fine after
a little rest." Nathan smiled up at the youth and then watched as he nodded
curtly and moved away with the taller agent.
Larabee looked at the man on the ground and then brought his eyes up to meet
the dark brown eyes of Jackson.
"You mean what ya said to JD?"
"Chris, it's a big gash. If he doesn't have any problems, he'll be fine."
Nathan looked down as he said, "He could have a fracture, swelling. Won't
know anything until they check him at the hospital."
Chris' only response was to look down at the man that he had come to depend
on in so many situations, studying the lax features. Moments later, the
paramedics arrived and, within minutes, the group was moving toward the waiting
ambulance. Larabee climbed into the back and Nathan slammed the door shut.
Larabee glanced out the window to see Nathan join Buck and JD as they watched
the vehicle depart.
The blond team leader stood in the hall, outside of JD's room, his mind replaying
the words thrown at him by the man who had been his best friend for years.
Buck Wilmington was a trusted friend and Chris had often relied on the man's
uncanny sense of people.
How many times had Chris listened to Buck's opinion of a situation or suspect?
The tall agent had a feel for things, a feel that had served them both well.
If Buck believed that JD was incapable of attempting suicide, then Chris
had to believe it, also. But, on the other hand, how could he dispute what
he had seen?
He moved down the hall and through the door to the stairwell once more. He
paused and considered going back upstairs, but, instead he moved down and
exited the building. Finding a bench, he fell onto it, the weariness of the
past day and a half finally catching up to him. Scrubbing his hands across
his whiskered face, he thought back on the scene that had taken place in
the waiting room late last night.
THIRTY TWO HOURS EARLIER
The men sat or stood at various spots around the room. Chris stood, staring
out the window, tension evident in the squared shoulders. Buck sat on the
worn vinyl couch, his arms thrown up over the back and his eyes moving from
his oldest friend to his newest. JD sat next to him, hunched forward, his
hands clenched in front of him, the only movement as an occasional blink.
Josiah and Nathan sat in chairs across the room, both men adopting a relaxed
Buck, JD, and Nathan had arrived a couple of hours after the others. They
had stayed at the warehouse and assisted Team Three in the clean up and
cataloging of the arms confiscated in the takedown.
JD had wanted to go to the hospital as soon as the ambulances had pulled
away, but Buck and Nathan silently agreed that giving Larabee time to cool
down would be in the best interests of everyone concerned. So, despite JD's
insistence that they go and check on their two injured teammates, they had
remained at the warehouse.
Wilmington had the anxious youth once again check the communication devices.
The young agent was surprised to find them in working order and was at a
loss to explain the breakdown. Buck and Nathan listened as JD explained what
he had found, or not found, actually. Finally unable to avoid the inevitable
any longer, the three men grabbed a vehicle and headed to the hospital to
reunite the team.
All this, Chris had learned from Nathan after the arrival of the three men.
His response to their arrival had been a cool one as he sat across from Sanchez,
who had accompanied Ezra to the hospital. Larabee had found the profiler
patiently waiting for news on the undercover agent when he had gone to the
waiting room after being tossed out of the cubicle where Tanner was being
examined. The older man stood and greeted the team leader on his arrival
and, after a few words, they had settled in to wait.
The group had been together for an hour when the doctor entered and they
all rose to meet him.
"Chris. Boys." The doctor eyed each man. He had treated all of them at one
time or another and knew each by name. "Okay, Ezra sustained a wound to the
lower back. It exited midsection, near where his belt buckle would rest.
We took him up to surgery and repaired the damage. There was nothing major
involved, so it was a matter of cleaning and stitching the perforations.
He's on a strong antibiotic to, hopefully, ward off any infection."
The doctor looked squarely at Larabee as he said. "I also have administered
a strong sedative. I will not have another incident like last time. My nurses
don't need the added stress. So, until I deem him capable of exiting on his
feet, he will remain on a sedative. Am I being clear?"
The blond merely nodded. He recalled the last time Ezra was supposed to remain
hospitalized and decided that he was well enough to leave. The southerner
had simply gotten up, got dressed and walked out. The nurses sounded the
alarm and had security running all over the grounds, throwing the entire
hospital into a panic before Buck and Vin had finally located the man sleeping
quietly in his own bed. The next day Larabee found himself in AD Travis'
office getting chewed up and spit out for not having control of his men.
Chris didn't want a repeat anymore then the doctor did.
"Vin went upstairs for a CAT scan. He's on the way back down. He has some
swelling but there's no fracture." The doctor watched Larabee as he continued.
"He's still out, but that's okay. We aren't going to get worried until
twenty-four hours have passed. You five just relax and, as soon as we get
them settled, I'll send someone to get you."
After a nod from the blond, the doctor turned on his heel and left. The men
stood for a few seconds and then moved away from the door. Buck draped an
arm around JD's neck and they started back to the couch. Larabee stopped
in front of them, pinning the younger man with his gaze.
"JD, what happened after you left me?"
JD drew up short, looking up at the blond. He took a deep breath and began,
"I moved off to the left. Ezra was squatted down behind a pile of boxes.
I was going to call to him, when I heard a noise behind me. I glanced that
way and then looked up at Vin. He was looking at me and I tried to radio
him, but the radio wasnt working, so I signaled that I had heard something
and I was going to check. I thought maybe one of the suspects could have
got behind us. Vin signaled that he had it."
JD stopped as Chris stepped closer. "Signaled how?"
Confusion clouded the hazel eyes and his brows drew together as he responded.
"He nodded and pointed to his eye and then to Ezra." JD's hands mimicked
"So what did you find?"
JD's eyes dropped. "Nothing. There wasn't anything there."
"Did you fire your gun? After we split?"
Are you sure?
Buck stepped forward. He had dropped his arm from JDs shoulders when
Larabee intercepted them, and he now placed himself slightly in front and
to the side of his young roommate. "What are you implying, Chris?"
"I'm not implying anything. I'm just trying to figure out what happened."
Larabee turned back to the shaken young man. "There was no one behind you?"
"Not that I found."
"You heard what the doc said? That Ezra was shot in the back?"
JD's voice was low and raspy. "I heard 'im."
"Who was behind Standish?"
The boys body went still as his eyes darted from side to side in
remembrance. Then the hazel eyes went wide and moist. "Me and Vin?"
"Why was Vin on the floor? Why did he come down from his perch?"
"I don't know. Maybe he saw whoever shot Ezra."
Larabee leaned in close to the young agent. "He saw them and he didn't take
JD was pale as he stared at the team leader. In an almost inaudible voice,
the young man asked, "Do you think that I shot Ezra, Chris?"
The two men stared in each other for a long moment, one in anger and the
other in shock, before Larabee straightened and stepped away, his silence
hanging heavy in the room. The implications of Larabee's question were obvious.
Chris had turned and walked to the window before turning back to the young
man. "JD, I don't think
no, I don't think you would have shot Ezra.
But, you have been distracted lately."
"I haven't, Chris. I don't know what is going on, but I
I don't know
why..." JD stammered.
Buck stepped back and placed a hand on the trembling shoulder. "JD, just
calm down. Chris knows you didn't shot Ezra. Now, think, you didn't see or
hear anything that might indicate that someone was back there with ya'll
except for when you first got over there?"
"No, I didn't see anything. I didn't check every crate, but I looked around.
I glanced up to see if Vin could see anything and saw he was gone. That's
when I headed back and found him on the floor. There was a two by four lying
across his back. I checked him and he seemed to be coming to. He kind 'a
pointed in Ezra's direction and mumbled his name, so I went to check on him.
When I found Ezra, I yelled for Nathan and applied pressure to the wound."
As if the thought reminded him, the young man glanced down at the blood stained
jeans he was wearing. He shivered slightly and brought his eyes up to meet
Wilmington's. "I need to change," he told his roommate, his voice cracking.
Buck squeezed the shoulder under his palm.
Larabee had turned to face the window and, ignoring JDs statement,
continued, "So, when we check, we'll find your weapon fired and your fingerprints
on the piece of lumber used to attack Tanner?"
JD paled even more as he thought about the evidence piling up against him.
"I just moved it off so I could roll Vin over."
Chris turned slowly to face the young agent. "Tanner wouldn't come down without
my okay. Not unless he was trying to help someone or stop someone he couldn't
shoot, a friend." Larabee's gaze never wavered as he studied the dark haired
JD stood frozen, his face going pale at the mans words, and suddenly
he bolted for the door, his hand over his mouth. Chris moved to follow him.
He found his way barred by Wilmington.
"What the hell do you think you're doing, Chris?"
"I'm not finished talking to him yet."
Blue eyes blazed. "The hell you're not," the man snarled. Buck stepped closer,
using his height to force the blond back a step. "He's only going to the
restroom, probably to toss his breakfast, since we haven't stopped for the
last eighteen hours, because the man he looks up to more than anyone in the
world, just accused him of betraying his team."
Chris glanced around and saw the unbelieving looks on Nathan and Josiah's
faces. He thought about the things he had implied, but he did not back down,
meeting their gazes as if daring them to say something. He had two men down
and he wanted to exact vengeance on someone. Unfortunately for the youngest
of their team, he had become the target of that urge.
Josiah's smooth voice asked, "Chris, why would you think JD could betray
us like that?"
Larabee paused for a moment before turning to stare out the window, then
turned to look at the men. "I didn't mean it like that, not betrayal. An
accident maybe or misjudgment
something. I just want to know what happened."
The scene in the warehouse flashed before his eyes again and with it, the
flame of anger flared once again within him. "If JD didnt
set us up."
"Well, it wasn't the kid." Buck hissed. "Vin's getting hurt is clouding your
"That's bullshit, Buck."
"You think so? You're letting your friendship with Tanner override your
"And you're not doing the same thing in JD's defense? That boy can do no
wrong as far as you're concerned." Chris stepped up, nose to nose with the
"JD ain't no boy. He's not perfect, but he's not a traitor. Nor is he so
careless that he would shot one of us in the back or, so cowardly, that he
would then brain someone else to cover it up. You're lashing out blindly
and not thinking it through."
Sanchez stepped between the two men, both of whom had doubled their fists.
"Brothers, we need to step back and take a deep breath. Emotions are running
high due to the injuries to our brethren."
Nathan took Wilmington's arm and turned him away from Larabee.
"Buck, let's you and me go check on the boy."
With a curt nod, the angry man allowed himself to be led to the door. He
didnt look back as he stepped into the hall in search of the youthful
agent. Jackson took a second to glance at Josiah and nodded before following
the angry agent out.
"Chris, you need to calm down and think. Your conclusions are understandable,
even reasonable, if we were talking about anyone other than the youngster.
You know it and I know it."
The blond's mouth was pinched tight in anger and his hands, still fisted,
were planted firmly on his hips. He finally took a deep breath and rolled
his shoulders in an attempt to relieve the tension that had them tied into
"I never thought JD betrayed us. He's not capable, but he's been making mistakes.
Maybe he made one in the warehouse."
"And tried to cover it up by hitting Vin with a two by four?" Josiah questioned.
Larabee stood, looking at the man, and then slowly shook his head, hands
coming up to run his fingers through the short blond hair, ending up interlaced
behind his neck. "No. No, he wouldn't do that." Dropping his arms, Chris
turned and moved back to the large window and looked down on the parking
lot. He shook his head as he stated, "None of it makes any sense. There was
no one back there but JD and Vin. Vin didn't shoot Ezra, JD didn't shoot
him, JD didnt hit Vin. So who does that leave?"
"Maybe Vin can tell us something when he wakes up." Josiah offered.
The blond placed both hands on the glass. "God, I hope so."
+ + + + + + +
Ten minutes later, Buck and Nathan hurriedly reentered the room. Buck glanced
around, asking, "Is the kid here?"
Chris pushed away from the window he had been leaning against as Josiah rose
from the couch, the vinyl squeaking as he stood.
"Isn't he in the restroom?" Chris questioned as he approached, genuine concern
in his voice. He watched as Buck squeezed his eyes closed, running a hand
through his wavy hair before turning away. Larabee's eyes went to the tall
dark man standing quietly in the doorway.
Nathan stepped into the room. "We checked the restroom. It was empty. We
checked all over the hospital, we can't find 'im anywhere."
Buck whirled around on the three men. His hands hung fisted at the end of
tensed arms. "Where the hell could he go?"
The others stood wordlessly, watching the man move stiltedly around the room.
"He wouldn't just walk away. He doesn't have a car or the bike. How could
he leave? Walk?"
He stalked around the room, looking for answers that the room could not give
him. Chris moved forward and stepped in front of the big man, putting a halt
to the pacing. Buck glared down at the slighter framed Larabee.
The blond accepted the accusatory look from his old friend by holding a hand
up in surrender. "Home. Could he have gone home? He was talking about having
to change his clothes."
Wilmington took a step back, his brows pulling down in a frown of concentration.
"How? Why wouldn't he come get one of us to take 'im?"
Chris' face clouded. "Maybe because I'm here." He paused for a moment to
allow the other man time to consider. When Buck nodded, Chris moved his hand
to Buck's shoulder. "Come on, let's go check. Nathan, why don't you come
Nathan nodded. He walked through the door, followed closely by Wilmington.
Chris turned to Sanchez. "Use the cell. Keep us up on the latest."
Josiah nodded. "God's speed, brothers."
+ + + + + + +
Buck burst through the door, calling, "JD?", as the door banged against the
wall and bounced back to be stopped by Nathans palm as he and Chris
entered on Wilmingtons heels.
Buck moved quickly around the living room and kitchen. He glanced out onto
the balcony, and not seeing what he was looking for, he turned toward the
bedroom that JD occupied. His footsteps slowed, as did his heartbeat, at
the scraping noise he heard coming from the room and he breathed a sigh of
relief. He glanced back and, seeing the others watching, he indicated that
JD was in the bedroom.
Passing the bathroom, he hesitated, a strong odor drawing his attention.
He stepped into the room and disappeared from view. An anguished cry of 'Nathan',
spurred the two men in the living room into motion.
Nathan reached the doorway first, momentarily blocking Larabees view
of the small room. When the blond finally got a view of the small area, he
froze at the threshold. His first impression was red. Everywhere
he looked, he saw red. It covered the walls surrounding the tub and ran down
the outside to pool on the floor. Buck was covered in it, as was the limp
form of JD Dunne. The older agent was standing awkwardly, his feet slipping
on the wet tiles as he struggled to lift an unconscious Dunne from the tub
while gripping towels wrapped around the young mans wrists.
Nathan grabbed the trailing legs of the young agent and, together, they lifted
him over and out of the tub, gently laying him on the cold tiles. Larabee
wasnt sure how long he stood there before he became aware of someone
calling his name. Shaking his head, he looked at Nathan to see his mouth
forming his name once again.
Call 911. Tell them to hurry, Chris.
Larabee backed out of the claustrophobic atmosphere within the tiny space
and pulled his cell out, hitting the three buttons without even looking.
He identified himself as an ATF agent and gave the operator the address and
requested an ambulance, remaining on the line as she requested. Chris could
hear her repeating the address to the proper emergency personnel through
the instrument at his ear while, at the same time, he could hear Nathan talking
to Buck. As much as he wanted to go back and check on them, he could not
get his feet to obey the order and he remained stationary in the middle of
the living room.
He jumped, startled, as the operators voice seemed to boom in his ear.
Sir, do you have any more information for the emergency personnel?
Do you know the nature of the injury? How it occurred?
The blond tasted bile as he formed the words and then spoke them out loud.
he cut his wrists, a suicide attempt. Chris could not
ignore the urge any longer and he bolted for the kitchen, tossing the contents
of his stomach into the sink. Relieved, he sloshed some tap water around
in his mouth and swiped his hand across his face before bringing the phone
back to his ear. Sorry. Are you still there?
A gentle, but professional voice answered, Yes, sir. Are you all
Yeah. Any idea for far away they are?
I can check on that for you.
Chris moved to the sliding glass door and looked out. No, never mind.
I can see em coming.
Agent Larabee, I need to send the police out on an apparent suicide.
Have them meet us at Denver Memorial. We wont be here long.
He disconnected the call, placing the device back in his pocket as he moved
to the door to let the paramedics in.
The exhausted man sat on the bench, the cool night blowing softly around
him. He vaguely wondered if he would ever be able to close his eyes again
without seeing the gut-wrenching scene in the small bathroom. Taking a deep
breath, he started to catalog the evidence, picturing the warehouse in his
One-JD had approached Ezra from the back. The undercover agent would not
have seen him. Two-Vin would have a complete overview from his position.
Three-JD moved past Ezra to investigate a noise, signaling to Tanner first.
Four-If Vin had seen anything, he would have called
No, the radios weren't
working. What would Vin have done if he saw someone and couldn't communicate?
Come down? Shoot? Chris shook his head as the thoughts tumbled around inside.
The scenario was incomplete. There had to be something missing, something
that made Tanner abandon his position. Add this to the problems Dunne, a
young, but competent agent, had been having for the past two weeks and, suddenly,
Larabee was thinking someone was playing with them. But to what end?
And the boy? Would he try to kill himself? Wilmington had been adamant that
Dunne would never do anything like that. Stepping back from the situation,
Chris had to admit to himself that such an act was out of character for the
young man. So what he was left with was a lot of questions and no answers.
The ringing of his cell phone stopped his musings. He pulled it out and answered
"Okay, Nathan, I'm on my way back up." He snapped the small instrument closed
and headed to the entrance of the hospital.
+ + + + + + +
Vin opened his eyes and immediately closed them again, thinking that it shouldn't
hurt that much to merely open the lids. He felt a hand on his shoulder and
figured it was Chris. Josiah's baritone voice startled the sharpshooter as
well as troubled him and he forced his eyes open just enough to make out
the face of the profiler.
" Tanner coughed a dry cough, his eyes closing as he did. He reopened
his eyes to see a glass and straw being held in front of him and he gratefully
took it. Turning to see Nathan standing there, Tanner nodded his thanks.
Before he could speak, the door opened to admit Doctor Cope.
"Well, welcome back." The physician approached the bed, pulling a small
flashlight out to check the reaction of his patient's pupils. The doctor
listened to Tanner's heart and lungs; he checked his pulse and blood pressure.
Chris entered the room while the examination was going on and Cope couldn't
help but notice the drop in Vin's heart rate at the arrival. The doctor smiled
slightly, shaking his head. While he hated the fact that injuries were the
reason he saw the seven, he marveled at the chance to watch the physical
effect they had on each other. All seven were close, though some were closer
than others, as evidenced by the lessening of anxiety the appearance of Larabee
had caused in this young man.
His exam completed, Doctor Cope straightened and stepped back. "You have
Vin nodded slowly as his eyes maintained contact with Larabee's. Chris nodded
and Vin finally broke eye contact.
"Okay, I'm going to prescribe something for you. It won't knock you out,"
the doctor said as Tanner began to shake his head. "Itll help with
"He'll take it." Chris stepped up to the foot of the bed.
Cope nodded and moved over to the bed where Ezra lay.
"How is he?" Nathan inquired.
"His vitals are good, strong. I hate that I had to drug him like that, but
he should be coming around soon; I've cut back the sedative, already. He's
about to the point where I feel comfortable letting him walk out, which he
will attempt at the first opportunity.
Turning from Standishs bed to face the others, he mused, I fail
to understand why each of you feels that you are more capable of healing
at home than here. " The doctor slipped his hands into his pockets as he
confessed, "What I did isn't exactly ethical, but
" He shrugged.
Larabee smiled slightly at the man's admittance as Nathan chuckled in the
background and confessed, "Well, I for one, don't plan to report ya. In fact,
I think I may try that myself next time."
"You have my permission. And my best wishes," Cope said. He turned, moving
toward the door, where he stopped and turned back. "And good luck. I don't
imagine that it will take long for him to catch on; any of them." That said,
he left the medic snorting as the other two smirked.
The blond turned at the sound. "Hey, cowboy. How you doing?"
"I feel like I got run over by a truck."
"Yeah? Well, you look like it, too."
"Is JD okay?"
Chris frowned at the question, but didn't answer as a nurse came in and added
a syringe of pain medication to the IV hanging from the bed pole. After she
left, Larabee moved from the bed to stand at the window, his back to the
"Chris? Is JD okay?"
"JD 'll be fine. Buck is with 'im." He turned to face the sharpshooter, hoping
he wouldn't ask the question again, but Vin's response was not what Chris
was expecting. He needed to know what Vin knew.
"Did she hurt 'im? I tried to warn 'im, but the radio wasn't working."
Holding up a hand, Chris approached the bed. "Whoa. She? She who? Who did
you see? Where?"
Josiah and Nathan moved closer, listening.
in the warehouse. She was in the back
hiding in the
crates...watching JD. She had a gun
She shot Ezra," the young agent
stated haltingly, his voice soft, but full of emotion. Vin looked from one
man to the next. "I couldn't get a shot off. Every time Id sight er,
shed duck out of sight. She was dressed all in black and moving fast,
weaving in and out. I thought I might be able to get to JD and, together,
we could get her."
Tanner relaxed back into the pillow with a sigh as the short speech sapped
his limited energy. Chris propped one hip onto the bed as he studied the
younger man. What did this woman look like, Vin?
Tanner rubbed a hand across his face. Shes tall, slim, but looked
muscular from what I could tell; had short, black hair. I think. Could have
been a tight cap or something, though.
Youve never seen her before?
Chris turned to the two men standing near the foot of the bed. Either
of you see anything in the warehouse?
No, nothing. Jackson stated.
Sanchez shook his head. Neither did I, Chris. Team Three swept the
building and found no evidence of a third party.
Well, they either missed it or she is really good. Larabee stood
and moved around the room. The other three watched as he moved once again
to the window, placing one palm against the cool glass. After a couple of
minutes, the blond turned back to face the men.
Nathan, Buck indicated that he heard something in the bedroom,
Jackson frowned and nodded. Yeah. He moved toward the hall and seemed
to relax about the time he got to the bathroom. If I remember right, he
We need to go over to the apartment and check it out. Josiah, I need
you to stay with Vin and Ezra. We dont know what this woman wants,
so lets just be safe.
Larabee and Jackson started to the door, but stopped as Tanner called out.
Chris? Whats going on? What happened to JD?
Larabee looked at Sanchez and Jackson before turning to Tanner, his face
a hard mask of controlled fury. It was a look that promised someone was going
to get hurt.
"Someone tried to kill him at the apartment. You rest. We'll be back, soon."
Larabee didn't wait for a reaction or a response. He turned and left the
room with Jackson in tow.
Vin turned his eyes on Sanchez, the rage evident in the light blue eyes.
His mouth was tight as he asked, "Tell me, Josiah." Tanner's jaw flexed as
The profiler dragged a chair closer to the bed and took a seat. He began
to fill the sharpshooter in on the events since the attack that left him
unconscious. By the time Josiah was through, Tanner's jaw was working overtime
as he fought to control his anger at Larabee.
"How could Chris say that to JD? He knows him better than that."
Josiah nodded as he said, "He does, Vincent, but he wasn't thinking straight.
Before you go and blame someone
just as Chris did
get all the facts."
Tanner's mouth pinched tight as his nostrils flared in a deep breath as he
bunched the sheets in his fists. He closed his eyes and fought to regain
control of his emotions before looking once again at the older man. But before
he could say anything
"Am I, once again, being maligned for the debacle that this case has apparently
Two pair of blue eyes turned at the voice. Sanchez stood and approached the
undercover agent's bed.
"Well, good morning, brother. We weren't excepting you to wake for a couple
more hours." Josiah smiled down on the undercover agent. "And, no, we were
not 'maligning' your person."
"Well, if that is not the situation, exactly who is Mr. Tanner preparing
to blame for what? And who did Mr. Larabee lay blame on, before acquiring
all the facts?"
"Damn, Ez. For a man who ain't even opened his eyes, you sure got a handle
on the conversation." Vin drawled.
The green eyes peeked open as the undercover agent turned his head. "I find
it advantageous to remain silent until such time as I feel confident that
I am fully aware of my surroundings."
Tanner stared at the man, a look of annoyance on his face. Standish returned
the stare, a distinct smirk in his features.
Sanchez stood, watching the exchange with amusement as the two men continued
to glare at each other. He finally chuckled, drawing the attention of both
men. Josiah decided to ignore the twin glares and recounted the same story
he had just told Tanner.
"Good Lord. Surely Mr. Larabee does not entertain the notion that the young
man is capable of such a devious act? Even had he been the one that caused
my injury, never, in the wildest imagining, could he be malicious enough
to attack Mr. Tanner in order to conceal that mishap."
"Well, Chris did jump the gun a bit," Josiah conceded, "but you have to
understand; he had two men down and that always makes him a little aggressive
"It makes him mean." Tanner observed as he turned his head back and closed
The blunt statement brought smiles to the faces of the other men. Standish
glanced around the room and asked,
"Where is our condemnatory leader?"
"He and Nathan have gone to Buck's apartment to find evidence that JD was
"Let us pray his mission is successful." Standish stated.
+ + + + + + +
Larabee fingered the metal tool in his hand. He had a key to each of the
teams dwellings, finding it easier than trying to locate keys in case
of an emergency. He hesitated momentarily at the door and then used the
implement. He and Nathan entered the apartment and headed to JD's room.
Both men paused at the bathroom. Chris looked into the room and, where earlier
he had seen only horror, he now saw a crime scene and his investigative training
took control, locking his emotions deep inside.
Nathan, take the bathroom. Look for the weapon; anything out of place
or that doesnt belong. Ill be in JDs room.
The tall medic nodded and entered the small space as the blond resumed walking.
He pushed the ajar door wide open and flicked on the light, scanning the
room, noting the disarray that usually defined the area was evident. Clothes
lay piled up in a corner; shoes, tossed in the general direction of the closet,
populated the floor. A snowboard, a skateboard, inline skates, a hockey stick,
all these things cluttered the hardwood floor. Chris slowly moved across
the room, studying everything as he picked his way through the disaster area.
well, normal. At least, normal for the young agents
Chris stood in the center of the room, slowly rotating, scanning the area
without moving his eyes, only his body. His eyes caught a flash of red and
he moved forward, to the window. Leaning forward, he examined the stain.
Yeah, Chris? You find something? Jackson joined the team leader
in the small bedroom.
Looks like a fingerprint. What do you think?
Nathan moved closer and examined the window frame. Yeah, youre
right. He looked around the window and then out onto the ledge.
Chris. Looks like another one on the outside.
Chris followed Jacksons line of sight and nodded. I think
youre right. Its light, but its there. If someone heard
us when we came in
Be hard to miss with Buck yelling.
Larabee nodded at the remark, then continued, If they heard us, they
might have slipped out the bathroom and in here without us seeing and then
gone out the window onto the fire escape.
Makes sense, Nathan agreed. Something else, Chris.
Theres nothing in that bathroom that could be used to cut JDs
wrists. Whoever it was, took it with them
Chris smiled at the information, knowing it was more proof that it was an
attempted murder. Larabee reached into his pocket and extracted his cell
phone. Flipping it open, he punched in a number and waited.
Its Larabee. I need an forensics team at Wilmingtons
apartment. He paused and listened for a moment. "Yes, sir."
Larabee moved out of the bedroom and back to the living room as he listened.
"Orin, this was an attempted murder. Tanner woke up and indicated that there
was a woman in the warehouse. She's the one that shot Standish. Chris
paused. Yeah, Vin saw her do it. That warehouse needs to be gone over
again. Team Three may have missed something." He paused again, listening.
Larabee's face tensed in anger and he clenched the small phone tighter.
"No! I'm not saying that they're incompetent. I'm saying that there was no
reason to look for evidence of someone hiding. We're being led around by
the nose. All the crap that has been happening with Dunne the past two weeks,
the attack on Tanner and Standish, and Dunne, for that matter, none of it
makes sense. Now this scheme to make it look like a suicide attempt by Dunne?
Someone is doing this and I plan to find out who. And why. I took the bait
and practically accused JD of assaulting Vin with that two by four after
Chris stopped, rubbing a hand across his face as he realized that was exactly
what he had done. He had looked at the facts and ignored the gut feeling
that told him JD did not do anything wrong. Taking a deep breath, he turned
his attention back to the phone in his hand as he ran a hand through his
hair. "I should have stood behind the kid."
He turned around, surveying the room. Memories of the good times he had had
in the room lurked in every corner. Afternoons and evenings of watching football
and auto races; arguments, in jest and in earnest; hours of male bonding
and brotherly teasing.
"Judge? Chris voice softened with emotion. I need you to
pull some strings and get JD moved out of the psych ward."
Nathan's gesturing caught the team leader's eye and he nodded as the medic
indicated he was going downstairs.
"I know, Judge. He's supposed to stay until someone evaluates him, but he
didn't try to kill himself. Please, his pleaded, his voice choked with
emotion. This was an attempted murder. I don't want him waking up in
restraints. Please, Orin."
The Judge's voice was a soft murmur coming through the instrument. Larabee
smiled slightly at the words spoken. "Thanks, Judge. I owe you one. I'll
call you later."
As Larabee hung up, the sound of the door opening drew his attention. Nathan
Jackson entered, followed by the forensics technicians.
"Greg, Sam. Good to see ya, boys."
Chris shook the offered hands.
"So, what do we have, Chris?"
"An attempted homicide made to look like a suicide attempt. There are traces
of blood on the windowsill in the bedroom on this floor. I want to know who's
and anything else you can find."
"Consider it done." The two men started toward JD's room with Sam stopping
at the door of the bathroom. He turned back to the two members of Team Seven.
"This is Dunne and Wilmington's place?"
"Damn," he stated as he stared into the small room. Tearing his gaze away,
he looked at Nathan and Chris. "Tell Buck we send our best to the kid."
Larabee's mouth tightened as he once again nodded. As the man entered the
bedroom and disappeared, Chris turned to Nathan.
"Let's get back. I need to talk to Buck."