by Tonny

Chapter 1 - 3 | Chapter 4 - 6 | Chapter 7 - 10 | Chapter 11 - 13
Chapter 14 - 16 | Chapter 17 - 19 | Chapter 20 - 22



Vin's cry of anguish was heart rending, but Nathan didn't have any time for him. He was too busy trying to save Josiah's life. His hands were covered in blood where he was putting pressure on the chest wound and he was sure that the bullet was still in there. Kelli was busy phoning it in.

Vin in the mean time was running like mad for his truck and a moment later he took off with screeching tires, taking the curve to the exit almost on two wheels.

Kelli kneeled down beside him and Josiah. She had managed to get a first aid kit from somewhere. Oh, yeah, from his own truck. He'd tossed her the key before he'd thrown himself down beside Josiah, knowing that he had to act immediately to save his friend's life.

"There's an ambulance coming, Nathan. What... what...." Her voice broke for a moment.

"Towels, there gotta be towels in there!"

"Here!" Soon he was pressing towels down on the wound with force. "I can't do anythin' else, can't take my hands off, Kelli. You gotta do the rest. Find somethin' to put under his head, I want it elevated a bit, see if it helps for his breathin'."

Kelli immediately took off her jacket and rolled it up. Carefully she lifted the grey haired head that looked so frightening white at the moment and put her jacket under it. A gasp came from the otherwise too still body.

"NO!" Nathan shouted at his best friend. "Don't you dare leave this world! You've got little Adam waitin' for you! That boy will need his father and... and you can't leave before he's at least had a chance to get to know you! Damn you, Mal needs ya too! How can she handle little Joanne's jealousy and such a small baby without your help and support? So you hold on, you hear me? SHIT, WHERE IS THAT AMBULANCE?"

"It's coming Nathan, it's coming. Listen, you can already hear it. I've phoned the others upstairs and... Oh, there they come. OVER HERE!"

Buck and Ezra were there first, with the others close behind them.

"Oh my God," Ezra breathed, not believing what he saw. "What... what happened?"

"JOSIAH! Nathan, what happened to him? Who did this?" Buck yelled.

"Someone shot Josiah," Nathan said through his clenched teeth. "And Chris is gone, disappeared."

"Chris?" Buck asked.

"They left together," Kelli told him. "The police had found the hotel room of the killer and they were going to check it out. Then suddenly Vin started yelling that something was wrong with Chris and ran off. Nathan and me, we ran after him. When we got out of the elevator we saw the tail bumper of Chris' car disappear out of the garage. Vin... he just took off, ran for his truck and rode off. We couldn't go with him though because Josiah...."

Her voice broke again.

An ambulance entering the parking garage with wailing sirens made any conversation impossible for a moment. Paramedics jumped out and soon Josiah was surrounded by the medical team of the ambulance and their equipment. Everyone was silent when they saw how much equipment was being used to stabilize their friend and colleague enough to drive him to the hospital.

By the time the ambulance was ready to leave with Josiah and with Nathan as well, who had been given permission to ride along, Vin came back. Without looking if he blocked any cars the sharpshooter rode up close, jumped out and ran to the ambulance.

"How is he?" he asked, tense with worry.

"Hangin' on. Chris?" Nathan wanted to know.

Vin shook his head, frustration clear on his face. "I was too late, no sign of his truck anywhere. I... I can't sense him, Nate, I can't sense him at all! Oh God, Josiah can't die, he just can't! Mal... and his two little kids. They only just got Adam! He was so glad 'bout that, he and Mal never thought they would have a second child!"

"Sir, we have to go, fast!"

"I'll make sure Mal 'll get to the hospital. We can't all come right now though, Chris...."

"I know, J'siah will be in surgery first anyway. I'll call!" Nathan managed to yell before the doors of the ambulance slammed shut and it left with tires that screeched as much as those of Vin's truck had done. The siren was wailing again.

"What a mess," Buck raged. "What a fucking mess! If I ever get my hands on whoever let out where Chris lives and works, I'll just squeeze the life out of him! Damn! Who could have him?"

"Our dear serial killer, I would say," Ezra said softly. When they looked at him, they saw he was holding up a tranquilizer dart. "I gather that is the reason you cannot sense him right now, Vin. He must be sedated quite heavily. That... that monster shot two darts in him. He forgot to take them with him this time though. Maybe because Josiah was there as well."

"Oh hell," Buck breathed.

Vin's face became a rigid mask, his eyes cold. He didn't react when Kelli put a soothing hand on his arm. "We're gonna get that monster now," he said softly. "Before he can do to Chris what he's done to all them women." Without looking at anyone he marched off.

+ + + + + + +

His prey was now bound securely and resting in the trunk of his own car, a blanket thrown over him for good measure. He'd ditched the black RAM in the back alley where he'd made the switch, doors enticingly open, confident it would be stolen and gone from that place within the hour. It was that kind of neighborhood after all. Now he was driving carefully to the place he had found and set up for his preys.

The searing anger inside him made him think of all the things he would do to this one. Although it wasn't what he'd prefer, he knew he was going to enjoy this very, very much.

He was going to have some fun and then, when they all thought this was it for him and relaxed their guard, he would get the bastard's beautiful whore. It would be so great to make this one watch while he slowly consumed her. And after that, he still had this one to finish.

He licked his lips and smiled. He might have to lay low for awhile, reorder his life, but he would make very sure that this one and his blonde whore would keep him going for all the time he needed.

Not long now and he would have his first taste of male blood. He licked his lips again, while he inserted his car in the traffic flow on Interstate 70.

+ + + + + + +

Forensics had confirmed it, the tranquilizer darts they had found contained the same sedative as found in Elena Whitaker's body, Rompun. It was a safe bet that it was indeed the serial killer who had Chris and not a copycat, although to leave nothing to chance they were also looking into other possibilities. Paul and Katrina were currently looking through heaps of old files.

They had also found the RAM. Buck had bullied the man driving it into showing them where he had 'found' the car and that was the end of that lead. The one good thing was, that they finally had gotten all the information on this so called Josh LaPlant. They now knew the social security number he used, what car he drove and the number plate it had, and they had everything ready to act as soon as the bastard used his credit cards.

That was the bad part, that they had to wait, that the next move all depended on what the killer would do. So for now it was the end of those leads as well.

It was also the end of Vin's computer monitor, it hadn't survived the crash to the floor when with one frustrated move of his arm the Texan had swept everything from his desk.

He was calmer now, after having visited Josiah in the hospital with Kelli. Josiah had been the one thing that had cheered them up a little in this whole mess, JD thought. The surgery on him had been a success, the bullet had been removed, all internal bleeding had been stopped and Josiah was pronounced stable as of an hour ago.

JD hadn't been to the hospital yet and he fretted about it. He wanted to see the profiler, that bighearted philosophical man who had always listened to him, who had helped him find a way to finally court Casey and who could have this huge grin about things no one else saw anything funny in. But they had been working very hard to track down all possible information on the killer and CASSIE was invaluable for that. He and Pam had been really busy.

He knew Buck was with Josiah at the moment, together with Nathan, Rain and of course Mallory, who wouldn't leave his side. Mallory must feel so bad, so frightened, JD thought. Geez, she was only just home from the hospital herself! Despite all her protests they hadn't let her and little Adam out of there until Monday. She had been so glad to go home and now it was Thursday, only three days later and she was back at the hospital with her baby. Unsure if her husband would live, because no matter that they said he was stable, he was still in a very bad shape. That much JD knew from his last phone call with Buck.

Inez was at home taking care of not only Sarah and Maria, but of Joanne as well. You just couldn't keep a very lively two and a half year old cooped up in a hospital. Before he left, Buck had confessed to JD that Inez had a real hard time with not being able to go to the hospital. They all loved Josiah, there wasn't a single one in their bunch who hadn't had some great advice, kind words and a big slap on the back to help them through a rough time from him.

Guess I'm not the only one held away by necessity, JD thought sadly and suddenly he felt the tears prick behind his eyes. Josiah on the brink of death and Chris.... God only knew what was happening to Chris.... Because Vin sure didn't seem to know. He didn't feel Chris at the moment and JD knew it scared the hell out of the Texan.

It scared the hell out of him too.

The phone was ringing in Chris' office and everyone was staring at it until, with a curse, Vin strolled in and snatched the receiver up. It was a short conversation that apparently agitated Vin enormously, if his arm movements were any indication. Soon the normally so stoic Texan stormed out of the office, yelling for Kelli.

"Vin? What's wrong? Did you find something out about Chris? Don't tell us Josiah...,"



At that moment Chris' phone rang again and Vin stormed back inside. The door stayed open this time, so they could all hear him yell, "NO! DON'T LET HER OUT OF YOUR SIGHT! SO, SHE SPEEDS! YOU'RE MARSHALLS FOR HEAVEN'S SAKE! DON'T TELL ME YA CAN'T KEEP UP WITH HER!" The phone was slammed down and they could all see Vin pacing. He would pass the door opening with angry steps, smoothing his hair back, disappear and a moment later he would stroll into view again for a few heartbeats, until he disappeared at the other side of the door.

"Damn," Kelli muttered and bravely she went into the office, slamming the door behind her.

"I'm starting to hate this case," Pamela whispered.

JD looked at her. She was staring at her computer screen, but he knew she wasn't seeing anything, she was blinking her eyes too fast for that.

"It's different when it's someone you know, isn't it?" JD asked softly. She looked at him briefly and then stared back at the screen again. After a moment she nodded.

"I... I haven't had that happen before, ever," she confessed. "It's always been others, people I don't know. And now.... I really like Josiah, JD. He's so nice, and working with him to try and find this killer, that was... oh, it was awesome! He's good! And so is Chris. When they were analyzing that map together.... I was proud to be part of that, of it all. But now...." She sniffed and looked away. "Sorry," she mumbled. "That's really embarrassing. Not professional at all."

"Screw professional!" JD said heatedly. "And don't be embarrassed. I still remember the first time when one of our team was almost killed and how I felt. I... I had to go to the men's room to hide that I was crying like a baby. We all care for the people we try to save, but when it's someone we know, it's even worse, it just is. Tell you what though, there is not a tougher lot than the men of team seven! We have survived more than you'll ever know and all you newbies will have a hard time following that act!" With a huge grin, he added, "We're just too damn stubborn to die!"

"Oh you!" Pam swatted him on the arm and he gave her a satisfactory yelp. The lightening of the mood didn't last long though. "Do you... do you think we'll find Chris before... you know?" The last two words came out in a whisper and she kept her face averted when she asked.

"Chris isn't one of those girls he took! Who says he'll do the same things to him? And you don't know Vin, he'll find Chris for sure, he and Ez! They're good."

"Alright. But if they do, YOU go to the next press conference with him! That was... that was.... Nope, on second thought, I wouldn't have wanted to miss that for anything in the world!"

"Hey, that's not fair! I've a right to some entertainment as well!"

The two agents smiled at each other. "Thanks JD," Pamela said softly.

"Aw, that's alright, I didn't do anything. If you don't mind, I... I really need to make a phone call."

"I don't mind. Say hello to Casey for me, will you?"

JD felt his cheeks start to burn and he hastily left for the small conference room, the Conflict Room as it was now known, although Buck was opting for a more romantic name whenever he saw Kelli and Vin get out of there, both disheveled or straitening their clothes. Well, alright, maybe romantic wasn't the right word for a name like that, JD thought, blushing a little.

He closed the door behind him and walked over to the window. This side of the building didn't look at the mountains where he lived with Casey and Aunt Nettie, all he saw were the buildings of Denver and a vast expense of blue sky.

"Casey Dunne," the sweetest voice on earth said.

"Casey... how are you?"

"Hi JD. Aunt Nettie and I are almost at the hospital. We've been to Inez first to cheer her up a bit and have bought some food for everyone. How are you doing? Any news on Chris?"

"No," he choked out, leaning with his head against the window. At least he was talking with his beloved wife now, which made it all more bearable. Soon he was imagining her arms around him and her sweet scent filling the room.

He wanted this case to be over. He wanted Josiah out of the hospital and Chris home and he wanted them all on the ranch enjoying one of their rowdy family gatherings.

He wanted Casey here with him for real.

+ + + + + + +

Linda didn't come quietly into the office, but with the door banging off its hinges. Two very ragged looking Marshalls came running in behind her. She didn't stop until she was in front of a very stone faced Vin Tanner, who stood leaning against the wall beside the door into his office, arms crossed and one foot tapping on the floor. All in all he looked very dangerous and ready to rip someone's head off.

She couldn't care less! If anyone was going to rip a head off it was her.

"Where's Chris?" she asked, keeping her voice level with all the willpower she possessed. What she really felt like doing was shrieking. "All Inez could tell me when she called me, was that Josiah has been shot and is at the brink of death, and that Chris has disappeared, been kidnapped most probably. So, what's going on? Where - is - he?"

"Linda, what do you think you're doin'!" Kelli called out indignantly from somewhere to her left. She ignored her friend and kept staring at Vin Tanner. The man who supposedly had this extraordinary connection with Chris, HER Chris. She heard someone walk towards her and immediately recognized the firm, short staccato steps of an angry Kelli.

She didn't care about that either, she was the one who was angry here.

"I've been locked up at my ranch, surrounded by men who have been told they needed to baby sit me, I've had Marshalls sent out to harass me, all because I was supposedly in danger. Only to hear that it's Chris who has disappeared? WHERE IS HE? ANSWER ME, DAMMIT!"

"I'm sorry 'bout this, but I guess we'll take it from here," Tanner said softly to the Marshalls behind her, talking over her head as if she wasn't there.

"Thanks, we're out of here then," she heard one of them say behind her. The other one snorted and added, "Good luck!"


Angrily she marched the last steps separating her from the biggest asshole of them all. "For the last time, where is Chris?" she hissed. A door closed behind her and suddenly Tanner didn't look all fired up and mean anymore, only tired, very tired.

"I'm sorry Linda. We just never thought.... There's no easy way to say this, but the serial killer probably got him."

"What?" She almost laughed about that statement. "You're joking, right? That... freak kidnaps and kills women, not men!"

"It's true. I wish J'siah was here, he might 've been able to tell us why he's suddenly done this. Myself, I think it's because of the press conference."

"The press conference?"

"Yeah, Chris gave a press conference 'bout everythin' we got on the killer and to warn blond haired women not to go out on the streets alone."

"I know he gave it! I've watched it! Hell, I've watched every rerun of it and every rerun of that stupid documentary as well just to SEE him! What's that got to do with anything?"

"Maybe he got mad with Chris for exposin' him, it's the only thing I can think of," Vin said softly.

Oh God, that could be it, that actually made sense! No, she viciously shook her head. No, this wasn't right, not that serial killer who... who butchered his victims with a knife! Chris had been very clear about that, trying to make her see how dangerous the man was. For women, not for men! Not for... Chris.

"Chris," she whispered. She felt tears behind her eyes, but she wasn't going to cry. No way was she going to cry in public, she never ever cried in public.

Arms wrapped around her and there Kelli was, whispering in her ear that she'd better come. Soon they entered a private office and the door shut behind them.

"Does he... does he really have Chris?" God, she sounded like a little girl. She cleared her throat and tried again. "Kelli, he can't have Chris, can he?"

"Linda, please, we'll find him. We'll find Chris before it's too late. We've got a really good team here, the best, I swear! We have the killer's name, we know how he looks and we got his social security number, which means we could trace the car he's driving, yes, also the license plate number and we could find his credit card number. You know what that means! As soon as he tries to pay with it, we've got him! And all found out in just a few days, when no one else even knew he was out there, killing!"

"He only needed a few days to kill that girl!" she shrieked. Embarrassed she covered her mouth with her hand. Had she really done that? Had she really shrieked?

"S... sorry, Kelli. It's just... I l... love him so much and the last thing I said...," She couldn't stop herself, it all came pouring out. "The last thing I said to him... over the phone... I... I was nasty, Kelli, because I was so angry with it all. Marshalls coming over to protect me, to restrict my freedom even more... and Chris not with me, but here in Denver. I m... missed him so much, he'd just finished that last case and now he was buried in a new one again! And then Inez called to tell me that Josiah was shot and Chris had disappeared. When I phoned here to the office to learn more, Vin told me to stay away Kel, to stay put! God, I never thought you'd marry an... an idiot!"

Now she was crying after all.

Kelli's arms were still wrapped around her. "I love ya like a sister, Linda," her friend whispered. "And I know you're distraught, but really, if you ever call Vin an idiot again, I'm gonna throw you in the nearest pile of horse manure I can find, you got that?"

Somehow Kelli's remark was exactly what she needed and made the tears stop. "Oh yeah? You and what army?"

She felt Kelli's arms tighten around her affectionately. "Like I need an army to throw you around! Linda, we'll find Chris and we'll find him in time, you'll see. You wouldn't believe the resources we can use. We'll save him!"

At that moment the door flew open to show an agitated Katrina. "Kelli, please, get out here now! It's Vin, there's something wrong with Vin!"

Hastily Kelli ran out, Linda right on her heels. They found Vin slumped in a chair, sweat rolling from his face.

"Vin? What's wrong? Are you getting sick?" Kelli asked worriedly, putting a hand on his brow.

"N... no, no, it's Chris Kel. I don't know what that bastard just did, but I felt Chris wake up. He's the one that's sick and then he was hurtin', hurtin' real bad."

Linda felt as if she was doused with a bucket of cold water. She could only stare at Vin. There it was again, that strange connection. Then Vin's eyes met hers and she saw the pain in them, but also relief.

"He's not dead," her best friend's husband whispered. "I... when I didn't feel him, I was real scared, but Linda, he's not dead! He might be hurtin', but he's not dead, he's still alive!"

"For how long?" she couldn't help saying. Still feeling cold all over she turned away from him and went back into the office where she'd been with Kelli. Looking around for the first time, she realized it was Chris' office.

It didn't really register. All she could think of was Chris out there, in the hands of a madman and now probably injured as well. She wanted him back! She wanted Chris back and feel his arms around her, while he whispered in her ear that he didn't mind her temper tantrums in the least. She wanted her lover to hold her and she wanted to hold him in turn so badly, it hurt. It hurt all over.

"Just hang on Chris," she whispered. "Just hang on!"


He wanted to breathe, simply breathe, but he couldn't. He felt like he would suffocate and every lungful was a struggle. Desperately he tried to move, only to find out that he couldn't do that either.

What was happening to him?

He tried to move again, but his hands and feet were... tied?

Oh God! Chris' eyes flew open. It didn't help, everything was blurry and he had trouble focusing.

"Not feeling so good now, are you? Nope, you're not so high and mighty anymore," a voice rasped.

Hands grabbed him from behind and he felt how someone tried to lift him. A moment later there was something at his back, something hard he could lean against and he did, gratefully, resting his head backwards and trying to get enough air in his lungs.

Oh God, he felt sick! Hastily he opened his eyes and tried to focus once more. Vaguely he saw a figure in front of him. He blinked and blinked again until he thought he could distinguish a face, barely.

Bile was rising up in his throat and Chris swallowed, not wanting to puke.

"You ready to stand? Oh fuck, like I care, stand you will!"

The hands were back, trying to get him on his feet. The movements made him feel even more nauseas. There was no way he could stop it now! Hanging forward Chris was violently ill.

"Shit, that's gross!" Suddenly a fist came out of nowhere and connected with an audible thud against his temple. His head flew aside. Missing strength his body followed and he fell down heavily.

He didn't try to get up, just tried to breath. A kick followed the blow, another kick and another while a voice shrieked at him to get up. Finally he tried to get his legs under him and that's when it happened. His body started to twitch and shake violently and he couldn't stop it. It scared him as much as the difficulty to breathe.

"Alright, then don't walk!"

Vaguely he felt how his body was kicked and rolled, despite the convulsions that kept going on and on and then he fell down, hitting solid stone again and again. Pain flared up throughout his body. The last thing he registered before he lost consciousness was laughter coming from somewhere above him.

Miles away, in the middle of Denver, a young, longhaired man jumped up, fists at his side and determination in his eyes while he started giving orders to the agents surrounding him. At the same time in the intensive care of the Denver Memorial Medical Center pale blue eyes opened under shaggy grey hair. A woman sitting beside the bed with a tiny baby in her arms started to cry, while a group of people in the hall gathered in the doorway, trying to get as close to the patient as possible without breaking the explicit orders of the doctor. One hurried off, while taking out a cell phone. A moment later the longhaired man answered a telephone call that set him running.

Josiah Sanchez had woken up.

+ + + + + + +

"Are you sure you can do this?" Mallory asked softly, holding on to the hand of her husband. "If you can't, I'll tell them to stuff it!"

The sharp pale blue eyes she loved so much looked into hers and she felt the big hand squeeze softly. He was so weak, so very weak! She'd never seen her strong husband so weak before and it tore at her heart. Vaguely she heard Adam's cries from across the hall and she soft crooning sounds of Miss Nettie, who tried to settle him. She wasn't worried about Adam though. He had just been fed and with Miss Nettie he was in the best of hands. No, right now she was worried about her other man, the man she had gradually come to love more and more with everything new she learned about him. Until she couldn't picture life without him any longer, she just couldn't. If he died her soul would be ripped out of her!

"I won't let them in, only if you can handle it," she told him.

"No..., Ch... Chris...."

Briefly she shut her eyes. She remembered Nathan had said something about Chris being with Josiah when he was shot, but it hadn't registered. Normally she didn't miss anything, but now, hardly a week after Adam was born, she still wasn't her old self. And Josiah... God, Josiah had been so close to dying, she had been so frightened!

"K... killer...." That normally loud and booming voice was terribly soft, she could hardly hear him.

"Killer?" she asked confused.

"Killer? Was it the serial killer, J'siah?" a Texan drawl asked behind her. Vin, he'd come in anyway. Josiah nodded and Vin cursed. "Nate, go ask one of the bunch outside if they wanna call the office and tell them to drop all the old cases, we only need to focus on the serial killer. Damn, but it really was him!" He raked a hand through his hair and suddenly looked very pale. It gave Mallory a cold feeling inside.

"Vin? What's going on?" she asked, alarmed now. "What has this serial killer you're hunting to do with Josiah being shot? Or with Chris? They said he's... he's missing?"

"Ch... Chris d... dead?" Josiah suddenly asked and Mallory gripped his hand tighter. He looked so forlorn, her normally larger than life husband, while asking about his friend and boss.

"Dead? No, no, he ain't Josiah, I swear! Bastard took him though, we found two tranquilizer darts."

"Two? Vin, are you sure?" Nathan asked while stepping back into Josiah's ICU room. Mallory could glimpse Casey hurrying off and a very anxious nurse peeping in before the door closed behind him. The nurse would stay out for now though, this was police business and Josiah had wanted to comply.

"Yeah, we found them, why?"

"That means he's gotten more of that stuff inside than the girls that were taken so far. Normally the killer uses only one." Nathan looked worried.

"Whadda ya saying? He might be dyin' from too much of that stuff?" Vin's voice sounded hostile. No one took offense, they all knew it was fear speaking, fear for his best friend. "I felt him, Nate! I felt him wake up, he ain't dyin'!"

"You feel him now?"

"No, but that don't say anything! That bastard really hurt him so he's just lost consciousness again!"

"Stop it!" Mallory hissed, seeing the distress in her husband. "If you can't behave, get out!" Both men looked guiltily at Josiah and then at the doctor who had suddenly materialized, arms crossed and looking at them sternly as if wanting to punctuate her words.

"Sorry Mal, J'siah, doc," Vin said ruefully. "We'll behave, I swear!"

The doctor nodded, said, "See that you do and remember, no more than ten minutes" and left again. Mallory knew he would stay near though. She was grateful for that.

"Just... I know he's still alive, so don't worry," Vin said softly to them all. "We'll find him before that bastard can do more to 'm."

Vin Tanner was not a very good liar and they all knew he was desperate. Oh, there was no doubt in Mallory's mind that given time this team would find the killer. The question was, would it be in time to save Chris?

"Wh... where?" Josiah rasped. All eyes went from staring at the floor to staring at the unit's profiler.

"Where? We don't know, we don't know where Chris is."

"N... no! Where... you look?"

"We have no idea where he is, Josiah," Nathan took over from Vin, who was struggling with his emotions. "Right now we're waitin' until his car is spotted or hopefully he uses his credit card soon."

That made Josiah frown. He looked with some perplexity at his friends. Then he looked beseechingly at Mallory, very beseechingly.

"What is it, Josiah?" she asked softly. His eyes begged her and she understood. Without letting go of his hand she stood up and leaned over him, so her ear was close to his mouth.

"Killing... rituals," her husband whispered.

"Yes, I think they know that," she told him gently. "They know the killings are some sort of ritual."

"Need... place for ri...tuals." His breath caught, then he continued, "Search... other towns... for...places with... bl... blood."

"What? Josiah, what do you mean? Vin, he says you should search the other towns for places with blood. That the killer needs a place for his rituals."

"Blood?" Vin asked.

Josiah gave a small nod. "Vic... tims killed... some... where," he wheezed, loud enough now for Vin and Nathan to hear him as well.

"And then they're thrown in some river or other water, away from where they are killed" Vin said softly. "So he can use the place again."

"Yeah, and he makes sure no evidence stays on the body for forensics to find out where she's killed," Nathan commented a bit bitterly.

Mallory suddenly had a frightening vision of finding Chris' body in the Platte a few days from now, badly mutilated like all the girls this horrible slasher had been killing. She shuddered. When she looked at Vin, she saw the anguish on his face and she knew that Vin had been thinking the same. Nathan and Josiah were looking just as grim and frightened for their friend.

"Search... what kind of... place he u... uses," Josiah said, impatience in his eyes. It was clear that he knew what he wanted them to do, but he just didn't have the strength to lay it all out for them. Vin looked steadily at him for a moment, then he suddenly nodded.

"You think he might use the same type of place every time, don't ya, J'siah? And maybe CASSIE can find it by comparing crime files again from the cities he's hunted."

With relief in his eyes Josiah nodded back.

A small smile formed on Vin's face. "I like it! See what kind a places he's been holing up in to do his butcher work." Immediately after having said those words fear was back on his face.

"J'siah, Mal, sorry, but I really have to go and get JD and Pam started. I don't think we've got that much time." He hurried off. At the door he stopped for a moment and looked back at Josiah. "Thanks pard, for thinkin' of the right thing again. We'd never had a chance on catchin' this monster without you, you know that, don't ya?"

Before Josiah could grunt something in reply, the lithe, fast figure was already gone. Mallory looked at the door for a moment longer and then back at Josiah, tears in her eyes. "He's right, you know," she said softly, proudly. Then she gasped. If the killer had known that, he might have taken Josiah instead of Chris. She felt cold all over at that idea. This day had been bad, the worst in her life because she had almost lost this man, but if it had been her husband in the hands of that maniac, not knowing what would happen to him except that that monster would eventually kill him, it would have been even worse.

With a trembling hand she caressed his lovely face. The feelings of anger and resentment that this had happened so close after one of the most joyful days in their life, the birth of their son, slowly evaporated. She still had him, had the love of her life with her. He was here, safe for now and not in the hands of a vicious killer.

Josiah smiled at her, a tired smile. "Love... you," he mumbled.

She bent over him and carefully kissed his brow. "Love you too," she whispered back. They looked at each other for a moment longer until her husband lost the battle with his weakness and tiredness. Slowly his eyes closed.

"Love you so very much," she added softly. "So don't you dare leave us!"

+ + + + + + +

Slowly Chris opened his eyes. For a moment he had trouble focusing again, but to his enormous relief his eyesight cleared. He was laying in a damp cellar, the only light coming from some windows high up near the ceiling and a trapdoor. The windows were cracked and half of the trapdoor was missing. Through the hole he could see a little piece of blue sky.

Cobwebs were everywhere. The dirt floor was filled with debris. Everything spoke of years of abandonment.

A memory was tugging at him. For a moment he stopped taking in his surroundings and he let that memory surface. It was like a fist in his guts. Josiah, Josiah dying right beside him!

Oh god, Josiah!

Blinking the threatening tears away he decided that the best thing to do was try and get out of this place. They would get the bastard and make him pay for what he'd done. I swear, Josiah, I swear I'll make him pay! For those girls, for you... for Mal. Oh, Mal...

Then he saw the man sitting cross-legged in one corner, staring at him through lank, black hair falling over his face, cleaning his fingernails with a big knife.


He started to tremble. Shit, no, he wasn't going to get the shakes for some maniacal freak, he just wasn't. He couldn't control his body though and soon it was twitching and shaking, no matter how he tried to stop it. It filled him with fear.

"Convulsions," a voice suddenly said from very close up. "Knew it would be a bit much, two darts. But with that first one ending in the sleeve of your coat and you bigger than my girls I sure wasn't gonna take a risk. Least you're breathing properly again, was afraid I'd maybe done you in after all. Oh shit!"

Vaguely he felt himself being turned to his side when he started to vomit, then he lost consciousness again.

The next time he opened his eyes, the man was sitting beside him and he wasn't in the same place anymore, it seemed he was dragged away from the vomit.

That big knife was still in the man's hand. He was playing with it, not looking at Chris. He was also murmuring to himself.

"Thinking he can take away my life. I built that life, it's mine! Thinking he can rip it all away, expose me! I'll show him, I'll show them all. No one trifles with Josh LaPlant!"

The man looked like he was miles away with his thoughts and Chris closed his eyes, glad that he still might have some respite before things started to get... ugly. He couldn't keep the knife out of his mind, or the file pictures of this man's victims.

Josh LaPlant. He didn't even use his own name for his private musings. Musings that gave Chris a very good idea why the guy had come after him. Revenge, revenge for exposing the sneaky little bastard.

He felt a hand on his shoulder, shaking him. "Hey, you awake down there? Yeah, you are, ain't you. Yer breathing's different. Come on, open them green eyes!" Chris did, glaring at the cowardly weasel.

"Oh yeah, green like the eyes of my girls. Hair's a pretty golden blond too!" The hand started playing with his hair and Chris pulled away in disgust. It angered the man. He took up his knife, pointing it at Chris.

"You don't like me touching you, you filthy bastard? After ripping my life to shreds you're gonna take whatever I want, you hear!" he yelled.

Pain be damned, Chris wasn't going to roll over for a pervert with a knife. When the man moved in close he ignored his pain, he ignored that knife and he lunged his head forward. It hit the other square in the stomach, making him fall back. The yelling ended in a surprised yelp. For a moment Brad Cleaver just sat there, then he jumped up with a shout.

"How dare you?" He lunged at Chris.

Chris swept his bound feet around, hitting the legs of Cleaver squarely and rolling away so Cleaver wouldn't crash right on top of him. Pain flared up in his shoulder, traveling all along his left arm, making Chris aware that something was wrong there.

No time. Cleaver had dropped his knife and hastily he kicked it out of reach of the man. He made sure he was on his back when the man came at him again, viciously kicking out when the killer jumped at him. His feet connected with Cleaver's abdomen and the man crumpled down, crying out. Chris swung his feet out again, aiming for the head of his captor. He almost succeeded, but at the last moment Cleaver realized what was happening and jerked out of the way. He still managed to hit Cleaver's shoulder, getting another cry out of the man.

Unfortunately that was it. Cleaver slowly stood up and walked to the knife. Bound up like he was, Chris couldn't stop him or get there sooner. He did manage to get to the wall behind him and work himself into a sitting position, the wall protecting him at his back. He tucked in his feet, ready to kick out again.

The killer squatted down just out of reach of his legs and smiled. "Seems we better do something about them long legs, shouldn't we?" he grinned. "Wouldn't want you to overexert yourself." He was rubbing his shoulder while talking. "And then I'm gonna make you pay for what you just did. As a bonus to what you've already coming!"

"What's the matter, you hurt Brad?" Chris taunted him. "You're a little coward who can only attack people from behind, with a club or a gun."

Cleaver's eyes clouded over, whether from Chris' taunt or from the use of his real name Chris couldn't say. He was biting his lower lips, staring at Chris in rage.

"I'm not a coward," he hissed at last, "I'm a hunter and a hunter shoots his prey!"

"You took a branch and clubbed your best friend, your only friend, to death over a girl that didn't even want you, you pathetic little fraud," Chris told him with a voice dripping contempt. "You don't face your prey, you just shoot those girls from some dark alley you're hiding yourself in and you call yourself a man? Yep, pathetic sounds about right."

Shrieking in rage Cleaver launched himself at Chris again, knife raised. Chris was ready and this time his kick had the young man crumple against the wall across from him. Chris waited for a moment, but Cleaver didn't move.

The knife, where had the knife gone to? Frantically he looked around until he saw it not far from Cleaver.

Shit, that was a risk, but he really needed that knife to cut through his bonds. With a last look at the unmoving figure Chris decided to go for it and rolled away from the wall. When he was almost there laughter sounded and he froze.

"That was fun to watch," Cleaver said softly, rising up and dusting himself off. "You rolling in the dirt like you ought to." Not knowing what else to do, Chris decided to try for the knife anyway.

Like he had feared, he didn't have a chance. Cleaver limped now, but he had his foot on the knife a lot sooner than Chris could execute his last roll. Hastily Cleaver got the knife from the floor and stepped away from Chris. "Now what?" he mumbled. "I don't want to sedate you again, I've waited long enough for you to come around, dammit! Besides, I think it's dangerous for you if I used the stuff on you again."

Chris didn't say anything. His eyes never left the killer, he was ready to move again. Only... he was feeling strange, really strange. His eyes blurred for a moment and then he felt it start, the trembling and shaking.

NO! No, not now, please not!

It didn't stop, it didn't go away and soon his body was imprisoned in those horrible convulsions again. He heard the killer's laugh and through it all he felt hands on his body, on his legs. Fighting against unconsciousness he tried to get his body back under control.

He couldn't. He could only ride it out.

When the convulsions finally ended he wasn't able to fight anymore. His feet were bound to an iron ring hammered low in the wall, making it impossible for him to kick out. The killer stood leaning against the wall, looking down on him with a small smile. He was rubbing his shoulder again.

"It's over? Good, I'm dying to start with you!" The young man barked in laughter. "Dying to start! Guess who's not the one going to die here?" He kneeled beside Chris and put his big knife under Chris' chin, forcing his head back.

"Now, first we need to get those clothes out of the way. That makes it all a lot easier. With my girls I always peel them off very slowly, laying bare their riches and beauties one by one. You ain't a girl though, so let's just get it over with. I bet you'll be pleased to get out of them as well, they're rather... soiled." There was that laugh again, a laugh Chris was truly starting to hate.

He didn't say anything back and closed his eyes when the knife started to cut his clothes away. Soon he felt his flesh exposed to the cool, damp air in the cellar and the slightly damp earth against his back.

The killer took the shreds of clothes and threw them in a corner where another pile was laying. When he came back, knife still brandished, Chris knew that from now on it would really get bad. Catching the killer's eyes he poured all his hate and loathing into the glare he sent him. It made the young man stop and falter for a moment. Then he was at Chris' side and stabbed the knife into his already hurting left shoulder. Chris couldn't stop the cry that escaped him at the sudden sharp pain. Blood poured out of the deep wound.

"First things first," Cleaver smiled. "It was time for me to start on my new prey, but I guess you will have to do. Let's see what kind of strength male blood can give me."

What the hell?

Before Chris could react to those strange words, Cleaver stooped down, put his mouth to the wound and started to suck.


Chris tried to twist away, a deep loathing filling him, but Cleaver just held on and kept drinking the blood.

His blood.

Oh God, this wasn't happening! Josiah had said something about blood, the blood being important for the killer. Josiah....

He felt teeth around the wound. It made him sick, but before he could puke a hand was clamping his mouth shut.

"Don't you dare!" Cleaver hissed. "I never let my girls soil this sacred moment, don't think I'll let you!" The hand didn't leave and Chris was forced to swallow his bile back in or choke.

Choking might have been better, he thought when Cleaver's mouth closed around the wound again. Then it was over and Cleaver was looking at him, licking his lips with a feverish light in his eyes, a strange looking knife in his hand.

"Now... now your strength flows through me and it's time to make you pay. Do you know what this is, Christopher Adam? Don't look so surprised that I know your full name, your whole life is on the internet, did you know that? First it was all over the television and then I found everything I needed to know on the net as well, very convenient. Except for your car, for some reason your car wasn't mentioned anywhere, isn't that odd? Still, I asked you something, do you know what this is?" He held up the strange looking knife.

Chris swallowed. He knew what it was, he knew exactly what it was. Desperately he tried to work his hands out of the ropes, tried to free his feet.

"Yes, I see you know what it is. Something to make you scream and scream again. I wonder if you will scream less than my girls, or if there won't be any difference. Let's find out, shall we?"

Unable to keep his eyes off it, Chris watched the skinning knife land on his chest. With the first small strip of skin Cleaver took off he knew that yes, he would scream. A lot.


"Vin, you need some rest!" Kelli was adamant. Her husband looked like hell, but he just kept on working! Phoning everyone he knew for favors and information on the killer they now had a full identity on. Looking at maps of Denver and its immediate surroundings with Justin and Buck. But most of all making JD's and Pam's life a hell.

Orrin Travis looked up from where he was going over the notes they had on the case, again. Kelli thought he must have read them hundreds of time by now. Didn't that drive the man nuts?

She knew most of them were slowly going crazy, she sure was herself! They didn't know what to do, how to get the killer, where to look. They had no choice but wait for the killer to make the first move and that was slowly getting to them.

The waiting had always been the part of police work she hated the most. Even more than paperwork and that was saying a lot! It was even worse now, with a life in the balance.... The life of someone she knew and cared about.

Damn it, all the waiting when she'd been a cop in Texas had made her apply for this job in the first place. This was supposed to be a special unit that would respond to high profile cases all over the country, fast paced cases she had expected would not involve all the waiting, just the doing!

Talking about a fast paced case.... They had moved like lightning on this serial killer and now look. She was waiting after all! Waiting for hours already! Chris had been taken around ten that Thursday morning, after his meeting with Travis and at the moment it was approaching 2 a.m. and they found themselves two hours into Friday.

She didn't want to think what could have been done to him in all those hours.

"Vin!" she grated, grabbing him by the arm when he was heading towards Pam and JD, again. "Stop harassing them and let them do their jobs! Just go and lay down in the lounge! We'll call you as soon as there is something, alright?" And give me some time with Linda who is going quietly to pieces in Chris' office, she added silently to herself.

Linda worried her as much as Vin did. While with Vin her worry was for the uncharacteristic frenzied way in which he was doing everything, with Linda it was just the opposite. The 'running around and getting into everyone's hair' Linda seemed gone, her friend was almost lethargic. She had been like that ever since Vin had doubled over in obvious pain, gasping and calling out "Chris, no!" After one horrid look at the unit captain, Linda had fled into Chris' office. There she had been sitting behind Chris' desk, in Chris' chair, looking at the pictures he had standing and hanging around.

When Kelli last looked, Linda had been holding a picture of her and Chris, taken at one of the family Sunday lunches. Kelli knew it hadn't been on Chris' desk for very long. She was glad that it had been standing there, prominently, so Linda could have the feeling that Chris did want her in his life, did feel connected to her.

On the other hand, that knowledge must be making Linda's grief even more pronounced.

"VIN!" She was getting positively angry. "Damn it, Tanner, what good will you be to Chris if you pass out and we'll have to leave you here when we finally do find him? Go - get - some - rest! NOW!"

Vin looked at her with blazing eyes. "You think I can rest while Chris, while he...." His voice broke.

"Oh Vin," she said softly, immediately regretting her temper. She knew she was on a short fuse ever since it was clear that the killer had taken Chris and they couldn't find a lead to where he was. This must be so much worse for Vin, who had a bond with their unit commander beyond anything she had ever seen. Without paying any attention to the others in the office, hardly acknowledging that no one was taking any rest, she wrapped her arms around him and held him close. It took a moment, but then Vin relaxed, dropping his chin on her head and wrapping his arms around her. They were holding each other so tightly Kelli felt the shudders going through him.

"We are all worried Vin, we are all working on getting him back. It would be the smart thing to do, to work in shifts and you... you look like hell! Just go try and get some rest, please."

"You don't understand Kelli," he said softly, so only she could hear him. "I look like hell 'cause Chris feels like hell. He hurts so much, Kel, so damn much! I can't shut it out!"

Oh shit! Seems there was even more to this connection between her husband and her boss than she'd thought she knew. "You're really feeling his pain?" she asked, hesitantly. "Not like a flash, some kind of warning when something happens to him, but all the time?"

"Yeah, sort of. I'm not... not feeling it as a part of my own body, like I'm hurting too. But I feel it in my gut, in my heart. It radiates through me somehow."

"Maybe you could take a light sleeping pill."

He pushed her off and looked at her angrily. "I wouldn't do that Kel! I would never try and shut him out, especially now!"

"Vin, you can't go on like this, please!" With her hand she cupped his cheek, trying to make him see reason.

"Yeah I can! Chris can too and he's the one bleedin'. I appreciate you bein' worried about me Kel, really I do, but this sure ain't the place for it. We wouldn't let our feelings interfere with the job, remember? Come, I'll be fine, let's just go back to try and find this killer."

She looked at him, at the determination in his eyes and reluctantly she nodded. "You're right, I was out of line. It's just... it hurts me to see you like this. But you stop letting your feelings cloud your judgment as well and give JD and Pam some breathing space, alright? They are just as worried and determined and don't need you pushing them when they are pushing themselves harder than they should!" She looked at the two heads bowed over one of the computers. Pam was typing furiously. Orrin Travis was standing behind them, keen eyes taking everything in but not interfering. "They are doing everything they can, Vin. I don't think anyone would have thought that this search would give them so much data!"

"It's frightening, ain't it, so many places that could've been possible crime scenes," Vin agreed.

"Well, since you won't listen to me anyway," she told her husband in a teasing tone while pulling at one of his earlobes, "I'm going to Linda, who is slowly losing it in Chris' office. I'm gonna try and persuade her to go home. It's not like she can do anything here, or will be allowed to come along when we do find out something. And she has nothing here to distract her from what's going on. She just sits there thinking the worst."

He pulled her hand from his ear and smiled. "Love you, Texas. You're braver than me, tryin' to make her see reason. Don't think you'll have any luck though."

Kelli sighed and looked at the closed office door. "No, I don't think I will either. But I gotta try."

+ + + + + + +

He looked down at his prey with satisfaction. Larabee had lost consciousness again and he could tell what he was doing was getting harder and harder for the man to bear. He smiled, thinking back on all the screams, moans and finally the soft whimpering. He'd loved that the most of all, when his prey had lost the strength for anything else. He always loved that moment the best.

The man hadn't begged though, not once in all that time and that bothered him.

Something else bothered him as well, a restlessness he was feeling inside, an ache low in his belly. He'd had the blood, the flesh and the pain and anguish of his prey, but this one couldn't satisfy him as much as his women. It was great to take revenge like this, but Larabee just wasn't what he really, really needed.

He needed a regular prey, one

e could use for all his wants and needs!

A grunt and some movement told him that this one was coming around again. He kneeled down, pressing hard on one of the deeper wounds. His victim gasped in pain, the green eyes flew open and for a moment he felt good, so good when he saw the hopelessness in them.

"We need to talk," he said softly, when the eyes were focused on him. The fear that had been in those green depths when the man had just woken up and had realized the truth of his existence was gone, replaced by the anger and disgust he was getting used to.

He so much preferred the other looks! I will get you there, he vowed silently. I will get you to the point where hopelessness and fear is all that's left in your eyes. And then... then you will die!

"I have some needs, some desires that are still unfulfilled," he told his prey softly, drawing the point of his knife slowly down along the bloody torso before him. A look of utter horror filled the man's eyes and he smiled. "I see that, as a man, you know what I'm talking about." In one smooth move he slashed the knife through his victim, another slash among many and he stood, looking down at his prey with satisfaction.

"They will think that since I have you, your blond bitch will be safe. She was mine you know. Mine! I had marked her! But you interfered, didn't you? Somehow I just know she wasn't around anymore for me to take her because of you! I will get her now anyway. I'm going to give you some water and you drink it, all. I want you alive long enough to see what I will do with her!"

That brought a look of such abject terror in the eyes of the man at his feet, that he felt a warm glow all through his body.

This was going to get better and better!

+ + + + + + +

"Vin? Linda has agreed to go back to the ranch and look after all the horses for us, since there is nothing she can do here."

"Huh?" Vin looked up from the notes JD and Pam were showing him. They had finally figured it out. The killer seemed to be very partial to cellars. Cellars of abandoned houses or of houses whose occupants were temporarily gone and came home to a nasty surprise of shredded and blood-soaked garments, a very bloody floor and even in some occasions pieces of flesh, human flesh laying around. In a few cases it seemed he might have taken an occupied house and killed off the tenants.

Vin turned back to the data in front of him. "Damn, but it seems Josiah had this guy pegged right again. He sure likes to stick to the same MO in everything," he sighed. "I just shudder to think about the many houses with cellars we have in and around Denver."

"Around," Pam stated. "They were all just outside the cities he had taken his victims from, with no neighbors in the proximity."

"Makes sense," Buck said somberly. "He might like to make them scream, so he wouldn't want any neighbors."


"Yeah, Kelli?" Finally it registered to him that Kelli had been talking to him and he looked up a bit guiltily.

Kelli was standing beside Linda, one arm wrapped securely around her friend. Vin was shocked at how pale Linda was, with her features a lot sharper than normal. She was staring at Buck with a look of horror on her face. Kelli was looking at Buck as well, only she had an angry glare. Shit, Linda must have heard Buck's comment about the screaming, he understood suddenly. His heart went out to her. This waiting, this inability to do something, must be even harder on this energetic woman who thrived on taking the bull by the horns and just acting.

At least they all had their job and right now that job was focused on saving their team commander. Linda did not even have that.

"We'll find Chris, Linda," he vowed. "Please, don't give up, alright? He ain't dead yet."

Now anger flashed in her eyes, anger and resentment directed at him. "Really? Says who? You? Because you FEEL him? Oh God...." Tears suddenly came and a moment later Kelli was holding her close, waiting out the storm of weeping.

"S... sorry," Linda managed to choke out after a while. "I... I don't normally.... But this waiting, while Chris is...." She fell silent.

"Linda is leaving for the ranch, I'm gonna escort her to her car, alright?" Kelli informed them all.

"Linda, is that what you want?"

Linda nodded at him. "Yes, I don't want to stay here, w... waiting like this. I need to do something, anything! Making sure the horses are alright will at least be something."

"But... the killer?" JD asked, worried. "We still don't have him." All eyes went to him. He started to squirm under the scrutiny of them.

Nathan was the one who said it. "He already has a victim, JD. Linda will be safe." They all heard the unspoken words, 'until we find Chris' body.'

NO! Until we find Chris! Vin thought vehemently. He wasn't going to give up, not ever!

It was just taking so long, so long... and all that time Chris was in the hands of a madman.

He looked after the two women. He had two people in his life now who meant more to him than anything or anyone else. One of them was at that moment walking to the office door and she was escorting the woman who had become so important to the other one.

He had thoroughly enjoyed seeing Chris with Linda these last weeks, seeing the 'devil may care' person that Buck Wilmington had told him and the others numerous stories about. He had loved seeing the light in his friend's eyes in the morning, when they were taking care of the horses and he knew Linda was the reason for that light.

He was not letting some pervert kill Chris Larabee, the indestructible, just when Chris had found the joy of love in his life again. He just wasn't!

Chris, God, where are you?

While the door closed behind the two women, he felt hurt sweep through his body, Chris' hurt, Chris was conscious again. Only a quick grasp for the desk kept him from falling.

"Vin?" he vaguely heard JD ask. He was just about to say that he was fine, when a deep wave of despair coursed through him.

"Linda," he whispered. "He's goin' for Linda!" Then he was running, fast. He exited the office just in time to see the elevator doors close. Not thinking about anything he sprinted for the stairs and practically flew down. One floor, two, three, four. After the seventh flight of stairs he was breathing heavily, but he wouldn't let that stop him. Eleven, twelve..., Jezus, he was tired! One more, to the parking lot. Seeing the women having almost reached Linda's fashionable and very luxurious Jeep gave him an extra spurt of energy and he burst out in a fast sprint.


Two heads swiveled his way and Kelli was suddenly holding out a gun. It made him smile briefly. God, he loved her! Protectively keeping Linda behind her and casting an eye in every direction, Kelli waited for him, wearily. Vin remembered Josiah laying on the floor, bleeding, close to where they now were and he looked around himself frantically as well. What if the killer had decided to wait here for Linda?

"Yes?" Kelli asked, tense. "Vin, what's wrong?"

"Linda... Linda can't... go!" Shit, he needed to catch his breath.

"What do you mean? Why can't I go?" Linda asked sharply.

"He's coming for you," Vin said simply.

"WHAT? Not that again! He didn't come for me, he came for Chris! He still has Chris, so he won't come for me, you all said so upstairs! Are you saying that Chris is dead?"

"NO! No Linda, he's not dead!"

"Then why do you think that... that maniac will come for me?"

Linda sounded downright hostile and Vin looked at her in surprise. He knew there was something about him that seemed to bother Linda and somehow in the past hours it seemed to have grown into real resentment. He didn't understand.

"Linda, so help me, you can it or I'll just take you over my knee and spank you!" Kelli told her friend with heat. "Vin ain't the enemy here! What would Chris think if he heard you?"

The angry words made Linda wilt and she looked guiltily at the floor. "Still don't see why Vin suddenly seems to think the killer will come for me after all," she muttered.

"Chris," Vin simply told her. When Linda looked up at him incredulously, he gazed at her steadily, willing her to acknowledge the truth of his words.

"Are you telling me that you know more than that he's in pain? He's talking to you or something?"

"Normally he is, but not now," Vin said softly, sadly. He didn't react to the stunned look on Linda's face. Kelli seemed a bit dazed as well when she heard him make his statement so casually. He knew she had suspected a little bit of how deep the connection between him and Chris was, but not the full extension of it. It was something that he and Chris never talked about, ever, not with anyone. It just... was.

Well, now they knew, for good or for bad. He reached for his beautiful wife, with whom he had built a connection all of their own the last months. "He feels too far away for that," he told them softly, sadly. "So it's basically emotions I'm getting. The pain, the disgust for the killer and just now this enormous feeling of despair that has to do with you, Linda. Please, the killer IS coming for you!"

"Oh shit!" Linda cried out and gave her car a vicious punch with her left fist. Her face immediately grimaced in pain.

"Linda, you dolt! You can break your hand that way!" A disgusted looking Kelli grabbed for the hand. "Let me see that!"

"Nope. We're going back upstairs. Nate or Kat can look at it there," Vin disagreed firmly, taking Linda by the arm to escort her to the elevator. He was flipping open his phone, once more able to think coherently now that he had Linda safely with him again.

Got her, Chris! I got her, she's safe!

At first he didn't know if he'd gotten through the blond's pain and anguish, but then, suddenly, the utter despair he had felt in Chris was gone. He had somehow managed to reach his friend. Good, at last he'd been able to do something for him.

Then he lost Chris. His heart constricted, but he knew it was probably because Chris had lost consciousness again, like before. He would know if his friend died, he just would and this wasn't it!

He went back to the business at hand and punched in Buck's number.

"Buck, that you? We gotta act fast, the killer's on the move. Get Denver PD and see which men they have close to Linda's ranch. They have to get someone there in waiting, to see if they can spot him. Make sure they all know the car and that every cop is on the look out for it. NO! No arrest! We need to know where Chris is, so they better follow him! We don't know if he will tell us, Buck. I have a bad feeling about that possibility. That's one angry dude we're chasing. Angry and completely bonkers. Yeah, we're on our way back up. You get the DPD on it, fast!"

When he looked at the two women just before entering the elevator he felt better than he had since discovering Josiah bleeding his life out and Chris gone. "We're back in the game," he told them confidently.

Chris, we're coming for you! Just you hold on!

+ + + + + + +

Chris coughed and opened his eyes to the stillness and darkness of the night. He thought he'd heard Vin's voice in his head, like he had so many times before. Telling him they were coming, that he only had to hold on.

It didn't matter, he knew Linda was safe and that was the only thing of importance. The rest... God, he just hurt too much to think about anything else, especially holding on.

He closed his eyes, willing his body to lose consciousness again. Unfortunately it didn't happen. Another cough racked his body and he couldn't stop from moaning.

It hurt, it all hurt so much. He wanted it to stop, just stop!

He wanted to forget what that madman had been doing to him with his knives. God, that guy could sure be creative with them!

But when he'd started gnawing at him.... Hastily Chris rolled over so he wouldn't drown in his own puke, crying out because moving hurt almost more than he could bear. When the searing pain throughout his entire body had finally lessened enough for him to be aware again, he tried the ropes around his hands. He should be able to free them, now that his wrists were slick with blood. Trouble was that it hurt so much, so damn much to try.

He had to try though, because being here when that demon came back would be infinitely worse.