The Chain Letter

by Angie

“Why in the world would anyone believe in these stupid things?” Buck growled that Monday morning as he hit the delete button on his keyboard. He hated junk mail, spam, and chain letters.

“Believe in what?” Josiah asked curiously.

“Chain letters! If you send this to seven friends within seven minutes you will have good luck. If you break the chain, you will have seven days of bad luck,” Buck quoted in disgust.

“Hey, I got one of those,” JD crowed.

“And you sent it to me?” Wilmington asked.

“No, but I got one. It was one of those ‘Luck of the Irish’ things. I forwarded it to some other people,” the young agent answered defensively.

“Well, don’t be sending any of them to me!” Buck said as he headed for the restroom.

“I hope nothing bad happens to him,” JD said softly.

“I heard that!” Buck yelled.

Josiah shrugged his shoulders and returned to the report he was checking for Vin. JD returned to the file he was preparing for Ezra’s next mission. A few moments later, both men were startled to their feet by a cry of dismay coming from the restroom. JD bolted to the door and hesitantly edged it open. Buck was standing in front of the sink, desperately trying to shut off the water that was spraying from the spigot and splashing all over him. Finally, he knelt down and felt under the sink for the shut off and turned the knob, stopping the torrent of water. Josiah pushed the door the rest of the way open and stood behind JD as they both took in the dripping wet explosives specialist.

“Shouldn’t have deleted that chain letter,” JD mumbled as he ducked under the profiler’s arm and returned to his desk.

Buck grumbled angrily as he dried off and pulled on the change of clothes he kept in the office for emergencies. Fortunately, Josiah hadn’t said anything except to offer to call someone from the housekeeping staff to come and mop up the floor.

The chain letter was mostly forgotten for a while. Ezra arrived from a court appearance and briefed all of them on the ‘miscreant’ that would be spending the rest of his natural life living off of the taxpayers. Chris and Vin came from a meeting with Team 2. Nathan was on light duty since spraining his ankle at home over the weekend and was in the ‘tombs’ in the basement of the building, reviewing and updating files. At noon, Chris called lunch and they all headed for the Italian place since it was Ezra’s turn to pick where they ate.

After placing their orders, the men sat around the large table talking about the upcoming weekend and the plans they had made. It was Nettie’s birthday and they were throwing her a surprise party to disguise the fact that they were making some needed repairs to the little house she lived in. The screen door was sagging and wouldn’t close properly and several of the windows rattled when the wind blew. A section of roof shingles needed to be replaced and the fence needed to be painted after several missing pickets were replaced. They knew the older woman would complain bitterly about the work they were doing, but she couldn’t refuse the gift of their services.

Their salads arrived and the men eagerly dug in. Even Vin, who normally steered away from green vegetables, was enthusiastically enjoying the salad he had received. A basket of breadsticks was placed on the table and quickly disappeared. Ezra shook some oil and red wine dressing on his salad and passed the decanter to Buck. JD slathered his salad in ranch dressing, to which Nathan scowled but kept silent. Just as they were finishing the salads, their main course arrived. Delicious aromas wafted up as each plate was carefully set on the table. Very little was said as they dug into their meals.

The waitress gathered the empty dishes from the table as the seven sated men groaned about their overfull stomachs. Buck tried to catch the young woman’s eye and failed, much to his consternation. When Chris finally rested his hands against the edge of the table and prepared to stand, all of them shifted in their seats. Nathan glanced across the table and hesitantly pointed out his observation.

“Uh, Buck? I think you might have spilled something there,” the medic said as he nodded toward Wilmington’s pants.

“What in the? Oh hell! What is this?” Buck said as he grabbed the napkin and blotted at the large wet spot on his upper thigh and crotch.

“It appears that you splashed some of the red wine dressing from your salad,” Ezra offered helpfully. “I would recommend that you take those pants to a dry cleaner if you ever hope to salvage them.” JD only barely concealed his giggling as he turned and headed for the exit.

Buck borrowed Josiah’s vehicle to go home and change while the others returned to the office. Housekeeping had come and mopped up in the bathroom and building maintenance had repaired the faucet that had showered Buck earlier in the day. Ezra left for a couple of hours to get a haircut. JD and Nathan returned to the ‘tombs’ to finish with the filing, since the younger agent had nothing else to do.

When he returned to the office, Buck was cursing and slamming things around on his desk. Vin got up and walked over, waiting until the volatile man had calmed before speaking.

“Something else go wrong?”

“When I got home, there was a call from the electric company that my last payment to them bounced. I called the bank and they told me that it’s probably just a glitch but that several other checks have been returned!”

“Ouch!” Vin said as he gave Buck’s shoulder a gentle squeeze.

That evening, at home, the phone rang just as Buck was getting out of the shower to get ready for his date. A few seconds later, JD hollered out that Mindy cancelled because her dog was sick when she came home from work. Slamming the damp towel into the laundry hamper, Buck wondered how his day had gone so bad so fast.

“Oh well, you want to watch a movie or something?” he asked JD when he had changed into sweats and a tee shirt.

“Sorry Buck, Casey and I have tickets to the game tonight. Maybe another time,” JD said as he grabbed his jacket and headed out.

Deciding to make the best of a bad situation, Buck flopped out on the couch and turned on the television, channel surfing until he found something to watch. A couple of hours later, he was sound asleep.

“Buck, you better get moving! Chris wants us all in the office on time this morning,” JD yelled as he stuck his head out of the bathroom amidst a cloud of steam from the shower.

“Huh?” Buck managed as he rolled over on the couch. His lower back ached from the unnatural angle he had been laying in and he groaned aloud. Pushing up on the arm of the couch, he managed to make it to his feet and lumbered into the bedroom to change.

After filling his travel mug with hot coffee, Buck followed JD down to the parking lot. A bellow of disbelief broke the still morning as he turned the ignition key and the truck’s starter only clicked softly.

“Want to jump it off of the Mustang or just take my car in today?” JD asked meekly.

“Let’s just take yours,” Buck huffed as he flung the door open and then slammed it angrily.

The day was pretty quiet in the office. No calamities befell the hapless explosives specialist before lunch. They went over to Inez’s saloon for their noon meal. Buck was more relaxed there than he would have been somewhere else. Sasha, the new waitress, was high on his list of priorities and he turned on the full power of his ‘animal magnetism’ when she approached the table. Although she smiled at him, she quickly fled to another table. By the time they finished their meals, Buck was frowning.

When they returned to the office, Buck found a message from Clarissa that she couldn’t make their date that evening because her sister had taken ill and needed help. Slamming the phone down in frustration, he glared at the offensive instrument.

“Bad news, Buck?” Nathan asked gently.

“That’s two nights in a row that my dates have cancelled!”

“I’m sure it’s just a fluke.”

“Or it could be the chain letter,” JD suggested, ducking behind his monitor as a pad of Post-it notes sailed past his head.

There was no time to lament the cancelled date when they were called to rush to the assistance of Team 3 on a raid. Chris hurried them out of the office and they raced to the assignment. Against his better judgment, the team leader told Buck to stay with the surveillance van, he didn’t want to take any chances. Although he grumbled and fussed about it, Buck went to the van and took up a spare set of headphones.

Inside of the two-story frame house, the two teams quickly subdued the suspects and their illegal munitions. As soon as he heard the all clear, Buck opened the rear doors and started to get out of the box van. He turned his head just in time to see a car careen out of control and jump the curb, sending him tumbling across the grassy lawn. The car slammed into a tree and sat, steam hissing from the ruptured radiator. Terry, the other guy in the surveillance van, rushed to his side.

“Are you alright? The car didn’t hit you, did it?”

“I’m fine,” Buck growled, lifting his head to glare at the other man before letting it drop to the grass again. In seconds, Nathan was kneeling beside him, checking his pulse.

“You’re not safe anywhere, are you?”

The only response Buck could manage was to raise one finger before letting his hand fall back to his side. For the next few minutes, he heard JD’s rapid-fire questions. When Nathan let him get up, he was fine, only shaken up by the incident. He was sent home to rest, with JD to keep an eye on him while the others took care of the clean up and reports on the raid.

Several hours later, Chris rapped lightly on the door before letting himself into the apartment. Buck was sprawled on the couch, glaring at the television. JD peered out of the kitchen before ducking out of sight again. Curious, the team leader padded into the other room.

“What’s going on?”

“He’s about as grouchy as a grizzly with a toothache. We stopped to pick up something to eat on the way home and they put avocados in his burrito,” JD explained.

“Buck’s allergic to avocados.”

“I know, but he didn’t notice it until we were almost home. I had to pull over so he could throw up. He took some medicine when we got here and he’s been lying right there ever since.”

“I can’t believe his run of luck. You want me to take him out to the ranch, get him out of your hair for the night?”

“Nah, thanks anyway. He’ll be alright after he sleeps for a few hours. I made some spaghetti for when he feels up to eating,” JD said as he lifted the lid and stirred the contents again. The strong odor of garlic filled the air. Only Buck and JD could eat their spaghetti, it was too strong for the others.

“Alright, I’ll just let both of you know what happened at the raid and be on my way,” Chris said.

The next morning, Buck was feeling better. He had gotten up during the night and reheated the spaghetti and ate a plate full before stumbling into his own bed for a few more hours of sleep. He apologized to the kid for being such a bear. JD drove them into work since Buck’s truck was still at the shop.

Midway through the morning, Buck leapt to his feet and began emptying his pockets. He jerked the desk drawer open and began rifling through it, a look of complete panic on his face. Everyone in the office watched, not knowing if they should interfere or not. When he began picking up files and rifling through them, tossing them on the floor afterwards, Nathan decided to ask.

“Lose something there, Buck?”

“My phone book! Have you seen my phone book? I had it in my pocket this morning,” Buck ranted as he continued to ransack his desktop and clutter the floor with files. “It’s that damned chain letter! It’s ruining my life!”

“Buck, why don’t you just open it and send it out? Then all of your bad luck should stop,” JD suggested.

“I can’t! I deleted it!” Wilmington cried frantically.

“Have you emptied your deleted files yet? If not, it may still be there,” Dunne offered.

Buck attacked his keyboard, opening his E-mail service and entering his password. He clicked on the icon for the deleted items and a short list scrolled up on the screen. Grabbing the mouse, he moved the cursor to the chain letter and double clicked on it. Just as the file was about to open, the screen went dark. “NOOO!” Buck yelled. With the E-mail gone, he would have to tough it out through the rest of the seven days of bad luck.

The technician shook his head as he reviewed the computer. When he began unplugging all of the cords, Buck sank into his chair. JD let Buck use his terminal to try to retrieve the chain letter. From the slump of his roommate’s shoulders, it was clear that the file was gone. JD spent a couple of hours trying to find the file, with no success. The loss of his ‘little black book’ affected Buck even more profoundly than the cancelled dates and other misfortunes that had befallen him. The book represented years of carefully cultivated conversations with women. He was lost without it.

When the auto shop called to tell him that they couldn’t figure out what was wrong with his truck, Buck only sighed and hung up the phone. When the florist called, screaming that his payment to them had bounced, he apologized softly and promised to make it good right away.

He nicked himself shaving, he broke one of his shoe laces, the bathroom doorknob came off in his hand, forcing him to wait for JD to find the proper tools to get him out. He burned his tongue on a cup of coffee, burned his finger cooking supper and then smashed another finger in a cabinet door. He developed an ingrown toenail that made wearing his shoes agony. He and JD turned the apartment upside down looking for the missing phone book, to no avail.

Over the weekend, the team gathered at Nettie’s house for her surprise party. They attacked their individual projects, leaving Buck to keep Nettie distracted after he managed to drive a splinter under his fingernail, requiring Nathan to remove it. When they had finished all of the repairs, they had cake and ice cream before leaving for the night. Chris convinced Buck to come over and stay the night at the ranch, to give JD and Casey some time alone.

Finally, Monday morning came and Chris brought Buck into the office early. Vin was already there and had made coffee. Buck went directly to his desk and sat down. The new computer had been installed and he flipped it on. While waiting for it to boot up, he accepted a cup of coffee from Chris. There was a sliver of ice still floating in it, so he knew it wouldn’t scald him. Smiling his thanks, he sipped at the brew and tried to relax.

“It’s been seven days, you think the bad luck is over?” Vin asked hesitantly.

“God, I hope so,” Buck replied as he moved the mouse to open his E-mail. His posture became rigid as he stared at the screen. “I don’t believe this! I do not believe I am seeing this!”

“What?” Vin and Chris demanded simultaneously.

“Another one! I’ve got another chain letter!” Buck glared at the screen and then looked at his friends, bewildered.

“What’s it say?” Vin asked.

“It says I have to send it to fifteen people in fifteen minutes!” Wilmington wailed.

“Well, what are you going to do about it?” Chris asked.

With a smile, Buck attacked his keyboard. With only seconds to spare, he hit the ‘send’ icon and watched as the little hourglass appeared in the center of the screen. He leaned back and laced his fingers behind his head when the message appeared that affirmed that his messages had been sent.

“You send it to us?” Vin asked.

“Nope. Something as powerful as this should only be used on your worst enemy. I sent it to those worms in IA that were hassling us last month,” Buck said with a satisfied smile. As he leaned back in his chair, he noticed something sticking out from under the block of scratch paper on the edge of his desk. Leaning forward, he picked up the paper and his ‘little black book’ dropped onto the blotter. He remembered having the book on the desk and he had gotten another call that he had to take down information for, the block was sticky on the bottom and had picked up the small book when he put it back.

The others arrived in the office and Buck told them about finding the phone book and about sending the chain letter to the IA brutes that none of his teammates liked. Shortly after ten in the morning, Buck’s phone rang. Mindy called to tell him that she had won two tickets to the game that night and, if he was available, that she wanted to make it up to him for the week before. Just before lunch, Clarissa called and invited him to go to the recently announced Jimmy Buffet concert in a couple of weeks. While they were at lunch in the saloon, Sasha smiled and flirted with Buck, inviting him to a Spanish festival in Silver Springs over the weekend. When they returned to the office, there was a message from the shop saying that they found the problem with the truck and that it would be fixed and ready when he got off that evening.

Much later in the afternoon, Millie from accounting came into the offices chuckling to herself. Josiah signed for the packet of papers and asked her what was so funny.

“I was just down in the IA office. Their sprinklers malfunctioned and they look like a bunch of drowned rats!” she managed around the broad grin. “And you know that Agent Fields? His toupee fell into the sink and the garbage disposal got it.”

“I wonder what happened,” Josiah mused aloud.

“Well, I don’t personally believe in them, but I heard that they got a chain letter and they deleted it instead of sending it on,” she whispered.

“You don’t say,” the profiler said with a smile.

The End