A Blast from the Past

by Marian and Angie

February 28, 2006

Thanks to our wonderful beta, Phyllis. This story is hereby dedicated as an early birthday gift.

"Detective, would you please state your name for the record?"

"John Daniel Dunne."

"Detective Dunne, please tell the court in your own words what happened the night of November 12th 1999."

"As I stated in my report; Jameson and his number one man, O'Malley, were captured on tape discussing their next shipment of drugs. I was in the surveillance van parked two houses down and heard the whole thing."

"When the shooting started what did you do, Detective?"

"I continued to monitor the situation."

"When and why did you leave the surveillance van, Detective?"

"Captain Bennett requested backup due to multiple men down."

"When you arrived, what did you find, Detective Dunne?"

"I found four of our men down, the front door open and three of his men..."

"His being, Jameson's?"

"Yes, that's right, and no one was around so I then proceeded to the room off to the right, which is the living room, where I found another two bodies. As I continued through the house, I kept trying to raise someone on the radio. I followed the sound of gunfire and found Jameson shooting Captain Bennett just as I entered the study."

"Are you sure it was Jameson, Detective?"

"Yes, Sir. I'm sure. It was Jameson alright."

"Thank you Detective. That will be all."

After an intense cross-examination in which the defense could not catch Detective Dunne in a lie, both sides rested and the case went to the jury.

It didn't take the jury long to return with a guilty verdict. Jameson was sentenced to 75 years to life. As he was led away, he looked at the young detective and said, "You'll pay for this, Dunne. Mark my words, you'll pay."

+ + + + + + +

Two years later Detective JD Dunne joined Denver's ATF under the direction of ADA Travis. It was a perfect fit for him, coming so soon after the death of his mother. He went on with his life, never looking back or even thinking about the man he expected to be spending the rest of his natural life behind bars.

+ + + + + + +

The inner realm of the ER was filled to capacity, with nurses and doctors running from room to room, tending the sick, while friends and relatives waited anxiously beyond the doors.

It was just reaching the bewitching hour when six men rushed in demanding to know where JD Dunne was, as well as his condition. The team had received word from hospital personnel that Agent Dunne with the Denver ATF was in the emergency room at Denver General.

However, upon investigation, they found that he was not a patient, nor could anyone tell them where he had gone.

ATF SUITE - Earlier in the day

The night began like any other or rather, the workday ended just like any other for the youngest member of the team. "Buck, I'll see you at home. Got a big date with Casey," JD said as he headed for the elevator.

Just as the doors shut and before Buck could respond, Larabee came out of his office, preventing anyone else from leaving. "Hold it, guys. ADA Travis has requested our company in his office before leaving for the night." Looking around, he asked, "Where the hell is JD?"

"It seems our young comrade has a 'big date' as he so eloquently referred to his evening with the delightful Ms. Wells," Ezra replied.

"In other words, Chris, the kid already left," Buck added.

As each of the men gathered their things, Nathan placed a call to Rain, informing her that he would be late getting home and not to worry.

One by one, they filed into the elevator and Vin pushed the button for Travis' floor. The doors began to close and Nathan pondered aloud, "Wonder what's so important that it kept Travis after hours?"

"Well, brother, it appears we are about to find out," Josiah responded, as the elevator came to a stop and the six men walked down the hall to the ADA's office.

They entered the office and were immediately directed to go right in by June, ADA Travis' secretary. Opening the other office, they saw Travis sitting behind a large desk covered with files, papers and a computer. Hearing the door open, the graying man looked up and immediately asked the whereabouts of young JD Dunne.

"Already left, Orin," Chris said as the team pulled up chairs and sat in a semi-circle facing the desk.

Before continuing, Travis pressed his intercom and spoke, "June, get me Dunne on his cell phone right away."

"Yes sir," she answered in a clipped tone.

Looking back at the men gathered in his office, Travis took a breath and slowly released it before speaking, "Gentlemen, I believe we have a problem and it concerns JD. I received word from his former Captain in Boston-"

The intercom interrupted him with, "Sir, I've tried to get through to Mr. Dunne but all I get is that he is out of range or that he has his phone turned off. Will there be anything else?"

"No, June, thank you. You can go now. Have a good weekend. See you on Monday."

"Thank you, sir. Good night."

Travis collected his thoughts for a moment before he continued speaking, "Now, where was I? Oh yes, here take a look at this." He handed Larabee a manila folder and waited as he scanned the documents.

"What is it, Chris?" Buck asked.

"It's from JD's former Captain in Boston and it doesn't look good, boys. According to Captain Ober, a guy by the name of Jameson broke out of prison."

"So what's that got to do with the kid?" Buck asked, leaning forward and trying to see what was in the folder in Chris's hand.

"JD testified against Jameson; who, at the time of his trial, was in control of the drug scene in Boston. When Jameson was found guilty, he threatened JD."

"This is a most unfortunate matter and one we must attend to immediately," Ezra said.

"Buck, do you know where JD was taking Casey?" Larabee inquired.

"No. The kid wouldn't say a word about what he had planned."

Orin fixed the team leader with an icy stare. "I would suggest that you find JD, right away, and put him in a safe house until Jameson is caught."

"You don't really think he'd come all the way out here to get the kid, do you?" Buck asked.

"I do. Jameson's prison psychiatrist noted that he was increasingly unstable in recent months. His cell mate reported that he was obsessed with Dunne," Travis explained. "Find JD before Jameson does."

The men rose as one and returned to their office, planning their search. Chris sent them out in pairs, Vin with Buck, Josiah with Ezra and Nathan with himself as they plotted the most likely locations for their young friend to have taken his sweetheart. Nettie told Vin that Casey hadn't said anything to her about their destination and Tanner promised to keep her informed. Nathan called the cell phone company and asked for a trace of JD's phone. Even if he had turned it off, they should still be able to locate it by satellite. To his irritation, the company said that they showed the phone at the loft JD shared with Buck. Casey's phone didn't have the capability to be located that way and the medic hung up the phone. Chris called the police and issued an APB on both JD's car and his motorcycle.

After going by the restaurant he had suggested, Ezra drove past the loft, just to check and see if maybe their young protégée had been waylaid when he went home to change for his date. He and Josiah let themselves into the apartment, guns drawn, and searched it thoroughly. They found no sign of Dunne or that there had been a struggle. JD's motorcycle was parked safely in the parking lot, so they called to cancel the APB on the bike. They then began to drive in an ever-widening circle of the blocks surrounding the apartment building trying to spot the car.

Vin couldn't help but feel sorry for Buck. He knew that the big-hearted man took his protection of JD very seriously. He was like a mother cat with only one kitten, he doted on the younger agent. After they stopped at the saloon to see if JD had stopped in, they began hitting all of the young people's hangouts. He slowed the jeep each time he sensed that Buck spotted a car like JD's. When his riding companion sighed in frustration, he let off of the clutch and continued down the rows of cars on the lot of the popular club. They also hit the movie theater. The young people at the ticket stand shook their heads indicating that they couldn't remember if they had seen him and the ones at the concession stand looked at them like they had lost their minds as there were ten or twelve people in each line at the counter. They drove the lot, checking the cars with no success.

At the office, Chris was calling everyone he could think of to ask them to keep an eye out for the young couple. Nathan was calling the hospitals and ambulance companies, alerting them to be on the lookout. He could hear Larabee calling towing companies and mentally scratched them off his list. When they had done all they could from the office, they piled into Chris's truck and began driving around.

+ + + + + + +

JD knocked on Casey's apartment door and waited for his girlfriend to let him in. Just as she opened the door, another door opened across the hall and a panicked woman's voice called out, "Somebody help me! I think my water broke!"

Stepping into the hall, Casey called to her friend, "Jessica, are you sure?" The young woman waddled to the door, the evidence of her statement obvious on the maternity jeans she wore. JD rushed to her side, anxiously taking her by the arm.

"What can I do to help?" he asked.

"I just need to go to the hospital. If you would, can you grab my suitcase there by the couch?"

Casey brushed past her neighbor and grabbed the small case, turning off the TV as she came out. JD had already draped his coat around Jessica's shoulders and was walking her toward the stairs. The trio slowly descended to the ground floor and JD ran to bring his car around so that the pregnant woman wouldn't have to walk far. Leaving the engine running, he hurried around to take the suitcase from Casey and help her into the back seat before helping Jessica into the front. He tossed the bag in the trunk and threw his body into the driver's seat, pulling the door closed even as he was shifting into drive.

When they reached the hospital, he was riding a wave of adrenaline. JD ran around the car, opening the door and gently easing Jessica from the seat. A contraction hit and she dug into his arms with her fingers as she groaned in pain. An orderly rushed up with a wheelchair and waited for the contraction to pass before he helped the mother-to-be to sit down. JD turned to help Casey out of the back seat, sending her in with her neighbor while he parked the car.

+ + + + + + +

Unnoticed by the young agent, three men watched from the battered van in the shadows. They had planned to grab him as he left his apartment but there had been too many people in the parking lot. They then figured on grabbing him as he came out with his girlfriend but they hadn't counted on how quickly he would come back out, and he was running.

The driver gestured angrily at the man in the passenger seat as they watched the young man running back into the ER. "We'll have to grab him when he comes back out," he told them.

"What if I run in there and tell them that someone is messing with his car?" the guy in the back offered.

"They'd call the cops," the driver said dourly.

"What if he said that the car had its lights on?" the passenger suggested.

"That's a good idea," the guy in the back said.

+ + + + + + +

Meanwhile, in the ER, Jessica panted through yet another contraction, holding tightly to Casey's hand as the nurse tried to collect her vitals. JD came back in from parking the car and stood in the corner of the room watching nervously. He had taken the mandatory class in first aid at the ATF building but he secretly prayed that he never had to be the one to help a woman deliver a baby.

"Do you have your relaxation tape?" the delivery nurse asked.

"It's in my bag," Jessica said as she looked to JD. "Can you get it? It should be right on top of my stuff."

"The bag is in my car, I'll be right back!" Dunne said as he turned to leave the room.

Casey noticed the leather jacket that the nurse was preparing to put into the bag with the rest of Jessica's things and she reached out to grab it. "This belongs to my boyfriend," she explained to the nurse. "I'm going to try to catch him." She ran out into the hall just in time to see JD dart through the sliding doors. Running down the corridor, she nearly ran into the door when it didn't open quickly enough.

+ + + + + + +

The men in the van saw JD jogging toward the car and decided to try to grab him. They were close anyway, as they had been trying to get the license plate number of his car so they could lure him out. Shutting off the headlights, the driver pulled up and the other two men leapt out. They grabbed the young agent and manhandled him into the back of the van. As they were getting ready to close the door and make their getaway, Casey began to yell.

"JD! JD? Let him go! Someone help!" she screamed as she ran toward the van.

"Grab her!" the driver said as he gunned the engine to close the distance to the girl. In the back of the van, JD's hands had been secured and he was staring at the business end of a gun. He went still, realizing that he couldn't do anything in such close quarters with his hands tied. The second guy jumped out, grabbing the fleeing Casey and hurling her into the open door, throwing it closed behind him. He pounced on her, drawing back his fist to render her senseless.

"Don't hurt her!" JD cried out. The man was thrown off balance as the vehicle careened around a corner, preventing him from carrying through with the blow. Casey twisted away from him and launched herself at JD, wrapping her arms around him and sobbing.

+ + + + + + +

The ringing of his cell phone distracted Buck from his study of the rows of cars at the mall. He groped in his pocket and pulled it out, flipping it open without looking to see who was calling.

"Agent Wilmington, this is Marla Stivers, from Denver General. JD was here earlier and-"

Before she got another word out, he disconnected the call and dialed Chris. "JD's at Denver General," he said. "Vin and I are at the mall, we'll meet you there. I'll call Ezra and Josiah. Can you call Nettie and let her know we found them?"

Relief washed over Larabee as he pulled into a parking place. After telling Nathan that JD was at the hospital, he scrolled through the list of numbers in his phone until he found Nettie's. He told her that JD and Casey were all right. When he finished the call, he pulled out and headed for the hospital.

"Praise the Lord!" Josiah exclaimed as soon as he heard the news. Ezra sighed as he brought the car up to speed with the others around them, waiting for direction. "He's at Denver General," the profiler explained.

The six men converged on the Emergency Room. Buck went directly to the desk and asked after his roommate. The woman checked the board and then the computer before turning to tell him that JD wasn't a patient.

"But I got a call from a nurse saying that he was here!"

"I'm sorry, but he isn't listed any place where I can find him," the woman replied.

Buck ripped the cell phone from his belt and showed her the number his last incoming call had come from. While she recognized that the call had indeed come from the hospital, she still could not find any proof, "I'm sorry, sir-" she began again.

"Don't tell me you're sorry! Tell me where he is!"

Nathan and Chris both came over, worried over the volume of Buck's voice. As Larabee placed a hand on the distraught man's shoulder, Jackson asked the woman at the desk to check again.

"Perhaps some calamity befell Miss Wells?" Ezra suggested. Their eyes automatically went to the board where all of the current patient's names were listed before going to the woman checking the computer.

"I'm sorry, I don't have either of them as a patient. If they had been here earlier and were discharged, they would still show up on the system."

+ + + + + + +

The weather was changing fast, the cold was settling over the area and the wind was howling as the van made its way through the back roads of Denver. JD sat huddled in the rear of the vehicle with Casey's arms wrapped around him.

"Who are you guys? What do you want?" he asked.

"Jonesy, shut him up before I have to, permanently," the man sitting across from him threatened.

"Come on, you got me, let her go."

"No, JD!" Casey said, as she clung to him, "I won't go without you."

As the miles flew by, JD continued to plead with his captors to let Casey go. The van slowed and, before they knew what was happening, Casey was being thrown from the vehicle. While they gathered speed, all JD could hear was her scream as she hit the ground.

+ + + + + + +

She rolled down the hill, stopping when her head made contact with a rock. Time passed as she lay there unconscious; the weather deteriorated and a light snow drifted down, covering her pretty face and waking her.

When Casey tried to get up, her head ached and the world began to spin. A nauseous feeling came over her and she slowly sat back down and closed her eyes. After a few minutes she tried to stand again. Her body was sore and her head ached but she knew that JD was depending on her to get help so she began to climb. The hill was steep and rocky... and as she climbed she kept slipping on the damp ground. By the time she reached the road she was exhausted. After a short rest and not knowing which direction to go, she turned to her right and started walking. Hoping she made the right decision... as she walked she prayed, "God, please take care of JD. Let no harm come to him."

She wrapped her long coat around her body as she hurried along, trying to keep the snow and freezing winds away from her legs. Casey stumbled and slipped as she went due to the ruts in the snow-covered dirt road. She hadn't gone very far when the heel of her shoe got caught in a hole and broke off, twisting her ankle as she fell. Sitting on the cold ground, she held her foot and rubbed it, all the while mumbling, "I'll get you for this, JD DUNNE! 'Case, wear a dress for tonight. Something special planned', HE SAID!"

Casey slowly pushed herself up, trying to balance on one foot. Gently, she tried to put some weight on her injured foot and fell again. As she crashed to the ground, she screamed, the pain being so bad it brought tears to her eyes. When the pain began to subside, she tried to stand again, this time she hobbled to the side of the road, where she was able to snap a good-sized stick off of a dead tree limb. Using the stick like a crutch, she made her way along the road looking for help.

+ + + + + + +

The van lurched to a stop and JD's captors got out, the last one grabbing him by the arm and dragging him out, letting him fall to the ground. Dunne looked around, trying to get an idea of where they were. It looked like some kind of hunting cabin. Smoke coming from the metal stovepipe spoke of warmth. The men yanked JD to his feet and shoved him through the door. He landed on his knees on the rough-hewn floor and looked up as a voice from the past sneered at him.

"I have been looking forward to this for a very long time, Detective Dunne."

Lamont Jameson was staring down at him and JD's heart leapt into his throat. His eyes darted around, seeking some avenue of escape.

"I see you remember me, that's good. I have spent a lot of time remembering you, too, Detective," Jameson said as he polished the brass knuckles with the rag on the table.

+ + + + + + +

Buck turned from the admission desk and stormed across the waiting room, dragging his fingers through his hair. He searched his memory for the name the nurse had given him when she called. "Stivers! The nurse who called me said her last name was Stivers," he exclaimed.

"Marla Stivers is a labor and delivery nurse. Are you sure she's the one who called you?" the woman at the desk asked hesitantly.

"Hell yes, I'm sure! Get her down here!" Buck demanded.

It was nearly a half hour later that the nurse in question reached the waiting room. She was directed to the dangerous-looking group of men in the corner by the vending machines. Taking a minute to admire the collection of incredibly handsome men, she crossed the room and introduced herself.

"Is one of you Agent Wilmington?" she asked.

"That'd be me," he said as he turned.

"Have you seen JD?"

"Haven't you?" Buck countered.

"He was here earlier, he and a girl brought in Jessica Walton. He went out to his car to get her bag and he never came back with it. One of the other ER nurses gave me your number."

"JD and Casey brought in a woman in labor?" Nathan asked.

"Yes, they brought her in and he had left her bag in his car. He went to get it and the other girl, Casey, she ran after him to give him his coat. They never came back and I got worried. Jessica's labor went pretty quickly and I had to move her up to the delivery suite."

"Let's see if his car is still on the lot," Chris suggested, "Thank you for your help." The blond turned toward the doors and followed the others out toward the parking area. A light snow was starting to fall and the clouds obscured the stars. They found the car in a doctor's parking space. Buck pulled his spare key from his pocket and handed it to Vin as his cell phone began to ring.

+ + + + + + +

Exhaustion was setting in as she finally came to a clearing. Across a field she saw a farmhouse with a light shining in the window. With tears of relief running down her cold, wind-chapped cheeks, Casey limped her way to the house. Just as she got to the door and was about to knock, it opened, and an old woman stood in front of her.

"Lands sakes, child! What are you doing out in this weather?" the woman asked as she looked past Casey. "Where's your car? Don't tell me you're walking in this weather?"

With a shivering voice, she asked, "Can I please use your phone, ma'am?"

"Of course you can! Why, where are my manners? You come in here right now and get warmed up." As she watched Casey limp by her, she realized just how hurt the young woman was.

As Casey settled into a chair, the woman brought her the phone as well as a stool so she could put her foot up. Giving her privacy to make her call, the old woman went in the kitchen only to return with an ice pack for Casey's ankle.

"Thank you. I don't mean to be any trouble, Mrs.?"

"Name's Sadie Jacobs but you call me Sadie you hear me now?

"Yes ma'am, I mean Sadie and I'm Casey Wells, nice to meet you."

"Well Casey, I'll go make some tea to warm your bones while you make your calls. Someone must be worried about you."

She sat back gathered her thoughts and then, with trembling hands, dialed the number to the loft only to get the answering machine. Tears filled her eyes as she hung up, regrouped, and tried Buck's cell phone.


"Buck? Oh Buck! I'm so glad I got you."

"Casey, girl, that you? Where are you? Is JD with you?"

"Oh, Buck, they took him!" she cried.

"Who, sweetheart? Who took him?" he anxiously asked.

"I don't know, I don't know."

"Ok, calm down, Casey, we'll come and get you. Where are you, darlin'?"

"I don't know. Wait. Sadie?"

"Yes, dear?"

"Where am I?"

"Why, Casey dear, you're on Old Ridge Way Road, 95 Old Ridge Way Road."

"I got it, darlin'. We're on our way... now you just sit tight."

"Oh and Buck please tell Nettie I'm all right. I can't-" her voice broke as she gave in to the tears that had been building up since the whole evening went to pieces.

"Will do, darlin'," he said, hearing the other woman comforting Casey.

+ + + + + + +

JD's breath left his lungs, driven by the hard blow to his stomach. He gagged, the contents of his stomach rising as he fought to keep from throwing up, knowing he'd choke on it with the rag they'd stuffed into his mouth. Another fist connected with his ribs, the brass knuckles splitting the skin. He tried to double over, to buy some relief for his straining stomach muscles. He managed to push the rag from his mouth just as his last meal exploded spectacularly all over Jameson.

The former drug lord sprang back, disgusted and appalled at the mess adorning the front of his pants. When his captive stopped puking, Jameson stepped forward and backhanded him, savagely snapping his head to the right. He followed up with another backhand that sent his head in the other direction.

JD groaned as his head felt like it might explode. His mouth filled with blood as his cheeks were slammed against his teeth. Another fist connected with his cheek, breaking his nose and splitting the skin along his cheekbone. He tried valiantly to raise his head, to spit the blood from his mouth onto Jameson, but his vision darkened and he slumped into the arms of the goons who were holding him up.

"Oh, by the way," Jonesy said as he dropped the arm he had been holding, letting JD hit the floor, "We tossed his girlfriend out a few miles back. You want me to go find her?"

"His girlfriend? Are you stupid? I didn't tell you to grab the girl!" Jameson shouted.

"We didn't have a choice! She was screaming and drawing attention to us!"

+ + + + + + +


"I got a bead on Casey. She's on one of them back roads up in the hills that goes by the name of Old Ridge Way Road, anybody ever hear of it?" Buck asked.

"Yeah, been hiking up that way... just last month," Vin said.

With that, the men piled into Larabee and Standish's vehicles and took off. As they drove, Chris called Orin Travis to fill him in and requested that he have JD's car towed to the Federal building.

As they traveled, the roads narrowed, eventually becoming gravel, making driving treacherous. Ezra complained bitterly about his precious car and what the gravel was doing to his paint job. An hour after leaving the hospital, they finally pulled into the driveway of the house.

"Casey dear, I do believe your friend is here," Sadie said as she heard a car door close.

"Oh, thank God. I wasn't sure Buck would be able to find the place," she replied.

Sadie looked out the window and became worried when she saw not one but six tall men coming toward her front door.

"Child, I think we may need to call the police. I think those men you escaped from have come back for you," the older woman said as she backed away from the door.

"No, I told you, they threw me out... they don't want me, just my boyfriend."

The discussion came to an abrupt stop, as there was a resounding knock on the front door. Before going to answering it, the old woman got her shotgun.

"Who is it?"

"Name's Buck Wilmington, ma'am, I'm looking for a Miss Casey Wells, is she here?"

"Who's that there with you?"

"Oh, ma'am, they're all friends of Miss Wells and we all are ATF agents. There's no need to be afraid, we only want to take Casey back to her Aunt Nettie," Buck replied.

"Well, all right, but one wrong move and I'll shoot," Sadie warned as she opened the door.

"Yes ma'am ... uh ma'am you got a license for that shotgun?" Buck question.

"Sure do... can't be to careful when you live out here all alone," the woman said, before she showed them to the sitting room where Casey sat with her foot up, covered with an ice pack.

"Buck! Oh Buck! I'm so happy to see you, all of you, thank you for coming for me," she said with tears welling up in her eyes.

As he grabbed her up into bear hug, he said, "Casey girl, you know I'd come for you anytime, anyplace, all you have to do is call. Heck, any one of us would, darlin'."

"Casey, let me take a look at that ankle," Nathan said. As he inspected her ankle, plans were made to take her back to the hospital. She flatly refused to go, claiming they needed her to locate the place where she was thrown from the van.

Thanking Sadie Jacobs for all her help, Casey said good-bye and Buck carried her out to Ezra's car.

Following Casey's directions, they headed back down the road, looking for where she broke off the tree limb. With each passing minute, JD's fate became more uncertain and they had no idea where to look.

Soon, Vin called a halt, got out of the truck and began to walk along side of the road. He signaled Chris to stop as he approached a fallen limb that appeared to have been broken recently. As he looked down along the ground, he found the heel that had broken off of Casey's shoe. They continued on and a short time later Vin found what appeared to be the place she had been thrown from the van.

It was agreed that Nathan and Ezra would take Casey back to the hospital to be checked out. While Nathan was with Casey, Ezra would go back to the office and see what information he could get on Jameson. The others continued on down the road, not knowing how far or where JD could possibly be with all the back roads and dead ends.

+ + + + + + +

A splash of icy water hit his face and JD roused. He lifted his head, struggling to see through swollen eyes. Light glinted off of something coming toward him and he flinched. His outer shirt had been ripped open, the buttons flying in all directions. A hand grasped the bottom of his tee shirt and a knife flashed, splitting the material. The wet cotton was difficult to tear but Jameson was determined. When the shirt was open all the way to his neck, Jameson rubbed the cool metal against JD's bare skin. He brought the knife perpendicular to JD's stomach and placed the point in his navel.

"I could gut you like a fish, Detective. You'd live long enough to see your intestines hit the floor. How about that? Have you ever seen a man die that way? I have. In the prison infirmary, they got one of the guards and cut him with a broken bottle. He screamed for a while, 'til he realized that no one could help him, then he whimpered like a baby. Will you whimper, I wonder?"

JD hardly dared to breathe for fear of causing the knife to cut him. Jameson drew the knife back before his hand came forward, turning at the last second so that it was his fist that impacted with JD's stomach instead of the blade. JD groaned, trying to curl up again. The two goons were still holding his arms and he couldn't get any relief. The blade came up again, passing along his cheek and JD tried to turn away.

"Or perhaps I should disfigure you. Will your little girlfriend still want you if you aren't so boyishly handsome? I could make it so she would scream every time she looked at you," Jameson taunted. One of the goons wrapped his hand in JD's hair and tipped his head up, holding it still. Instead of the knife, it was Jameson's fist that connected with his jaw, sending him into oblivion once again.

+ + + + + + +

On the ride to the hospital Nathan and Ezra questioned Casey, hoping she might remember something that would help them find JD.

"Casey did you get a good look at any of these guys, could you give us a description?"

Ezra asked

"I only got a look at the one who grabbed me, he had a mole above his right eye, black hair, gray eyes and I think he might be as tall as Mister Larabee"

"That's good, anything else you remember, such as a name?" Ezra asked.

"You know, now that I think about it, I seem to remember hearing the name Jonesy."

"How are you feeling, Casey?" Nathan interjected.

"I told you I'm fine... I really don't need to go to the hospital."

Just then Nathan's cell phone rang, "Jackson. Yes, ma'am, we're on our way. No, ma'am, wouldn't let her do that, ma'am. See you soon."

"Well, Mister Jackson, was that who I think it was?" Ezra asked, as Casey sat in the back seat cringing.

"If you think it was Nettie Wells, then yes, it was. Casey, she said she is going to meet us at the hospital."

When they reached the hospital, Nathan got out and saw a young man heading back into the emergency room with a wheelchair and called him over. Meanwhile, Casey was complaining, "I can walk, I don't need a wheelchair... for pete's sakes." But as she got out of the car and tried to put weight on her injured foot, she lost her balance and would have fallen if Nathan had not caught her.

As they entered the emergency room, they were approached by a nurse, "Agent Jackson? We've been expecting you. Agent Larabee called and told us you were on your way. So, who do we have here?" She asked as she smiled at the young woman in the wheelchair.

"This is Casey Wells, Nurse McGrath. She took a tumble down the side of hill and sprained her ankle."

"Well now, this is out of the ordinary, I just don't know if the others will believe it," she said as she began to wheel Casey though the double doors.

Nathan was left to wait for Mrs. Wells to arrive. When Nettie walked in the doors of the ER, he went to her side, "Ma'am, if you'll come over here and have a seat, I'll tell you all that I know." He led her to a seat by the window and proceeded to tell her what had happened to JD and her niece. By the time the doctor came out looking for them, the forms were filled out and Nettie knew all there was to know.

"Well, Miss Wells is a lucky young woman. She has a sprained ankle, a lump on her head and several bruises. She is to stay off that foot for a few days and take Tylenol for the pain."

"Thank you, doctor, when can I see her?" Nettie asked.

"She'll be right out."

Nathan called Ezra and informed him that he was ready to be picked up; then he helped Casey out to the car and watched as they drove away

+ + + + + + +

After he dropped Nathan and Casey at the hospital, Ezra returned to the office to try to round up more information on Jameson. He called Judge Travis to explain what they had discovered so far. He was able to access the digital log of the cameras at the hospital, hoping to catch an image of the van that took JD. The logs showed a dark van but it didn't have any plates and he couldn't get a clear image of the driver. While he was reviewing the hospital footage, another computer was running a search on any and all family members of Lamont Jameson. He also ran all of his cellmates and their families. It was a long shot but it was the only lead they had at the moment. When the search program chimed its completion, he smiled. It had kicked out a single name and an address. He pulled the location up on the computer and printed a map. Just as he was pulling the paper from the printer, Nathan called to say he was finished at the hospital.

+ + + + + + +

As soon as he picked up Nathan, Ezra headed out toward the place where they had picked Casey up. He called Chris to give him the location of the hunting cabin that belonged to the father of one of Jameson's cellmates. The sun was just beginning to lighten the sky so they wanted to find JD, and quickly.

+ + + + + + +

When JD awakened next, he was lying on the floor in the corner of the cabin. His shoulders and elbows ached, along with his stomach and ribs. His eyes were so swollen that he could only barely detect the light. A rhythmic grating noise fell on his ears and he tried to figure out why it was somehow familiar. When he finally placed the sound, his heart sank. Jameson was using a whetstone on a knife blade!

The goons returned, bringing food for all of them. The smell of the food had JD's stomach growling and he remembered that he hadn't eaten anything since lunch the day before. One of the men nudged him with a booted foot and Dunne couldn't hold back the moan as the motion jarred his aching shoulder. Lacking the strength to put up more than token resistance, he was hauled to his feet.

"Now, Detective Dunne, I'm off to begin my new life. I realize that the state of Massachusetts thinks that they got all of my finances when they locked me up but they were so wrong. I had funds hidden away. After I finish with you, I'm off to a little hospital in San Diego for a face-lift and then it's off to Brazil to begin a life of leisure. I can promise you a slow and painful death," Jameson purred as he flashed the reflection of the light off of the polished surface of the twelve-inch long blade into JD's brown eyes. He was thrown against the wall and a rope passed under his arms and pulled up to keep him on his feet. "It's been entertaining, Detective Dunne, but it's over," Jameson said as he thrust the knife into JD's stomach with enough force to drive the blade out through his back and imbed it in the wall behind him. The blade was so sharp that he didn't feel it at first. It was like a punch followed by a burning sensation. Then the pain reached his brain and JD screamed. "I would have liked to stay and watch you die, however with your little girlfriend out there wandering around, there's no telling how long before she finds help. So I'll take my leave now."

Jameson and his goons packed up the cabin, leaving it cleaner than it was when they first arrived. The only evidence that anyone had been there was JD's body hanging on the wall with blood dripping down onto the floor forming a puddle at his feet. They headed for the airport where they had a private plane waiting for them.

Everything was going as planned until they reached the highway; trouble was waiting and, as soon as they hit the outskirts of Denver, the Highway Patrol stopped them. As the officer stood between the vehicles and called in the plate number, one of Jameson's men flung open the back door of the van. The officer turned, his eyes widening in surprise as Jonesy opened fire, hitting him twice in the vest and once in the shoulder. Thinking the officer was down for the count, they left the scene believing he would not be detected until some time later.

The officer crawled to the driver's door, opened it and climbed inside. Keying the mic, he called to the dispatcher, "Officer down, car 22, officer down." The mic slipped from his fingers as he lost consciousness again.

+ + + + + + +

Chris shifted nervously in the driver's seat as he waited for Nathan and Ezra to arrive. Although Vin was familiar with the area, there were at least a dozen small cabins in the area, each identified only by a route number on a map. Unless a person knew exactly where they were going, they would likely never find the right one. Finally, he spotted the familiar round headlights of Standish's Jaguar. He flung the door open and got out, hearing the others climbing out after him. As soon as the car came to a stop, Ezra got out and began laying a map on the hood. Vin and Buck shined flashlights on the paper as they traced out the route to the cabin where they hoped to find JD.

Driving without headlights so as not to alert anyone in the cabin, it was slow going as they navigated the overgrown, potholed little wagon-rut of a road. When they spotted the cabin, they killed the engine and coasted to a stop, each man clutching their weapon in their hand. They had left the Jag down on the gravel road, not wanting to take a chance of breaking something on the undercarriage of the low-riding vehicle. The six men slipped silently from the quad cab, easing the doors closed only far enough to make sure the interior lights went out. They crept up on the small, seemingly deserted, building. Vin and Buck took the front, leaving the sides and back to the others. Ezra and Chris stalked up from the side, angling toward the rear of the cabin. Nathan and Josiah reached the side where the only window in the structure was located. The medic risked a look inside, signaling to Josiah that he couldn't see anything.

On a count of three, Buck used his long, powerful leg to kick the door open, going in high as the sharpshooter came in low. The early morning light barely illuminated the interior of the room, allowing the explosives specialist to see what was inside. He gasped, quickly holstering his gun as he crossed the room in several long strides.

"Aww, kid," he moaned as he took in the battered features.

"Don't touch him!" Nathan yelled as he came running. The small cabin quickly became crowded, as all six of them tried to get closer to their injured friend. "I need more light in here," the medic said as he carefully placed his fingers on the pulse point of JD's neck.

Josiah and Chris grabbed the kerosene lanterns and shook them to see if they had any liquid in them. Then they lit the wicks and set them up on the shelves nearest the back wall of the cabin. All of them blanched at the sight of the knife hilt sticking out of JD's stomach.

"Nathan?" Buck asked, not able to make his mouth form the words he dreaded to ask.

"He's alive, just barely. We have to get him to a hospital as soon as possible."

"How? I mean ... are you gonna ... pull that out of him?" Wilmington asked, his stomach clenching at the prospect of seeing something like that done to his young friend.

"No, we could do more harm in removing it. I'm going to have to leave it in until we get to the hospital," Nathan explained. He could see that the news didn't go over well. "Josiah, hold him while we cut him down. Don't let him move, understand?"

"Perfectly, Brother, I won't let you down, or JD," Josiah responded, trying to lighten the tense atmosphere of the room.

As soon as he passed his fingers around JD's sides, Nathan realized that the knife was imbedded in the wall behind him. "Oh, hell," he murmured softly.

"What?" Buck called, panic showing in his face.

"The knife went into the wall. We have to get it out without moving it. Vin, could you run around and see if it extends all the way through?" He watched the Texan nod curtly before jogging outside. He came back several minutes later.

"The point is sticking out about this much," Vin said, holding his thumb and forefinger apart a smidge.

Nathan took a minute to study the situation. Josiah had a firm grip on JD under his arms and was keeping him still. He made a decision; he just prayed that they didn't do more harm. "We need to pad the bed of the truck so that the knife can stay in place. I'm going to have Vin push the blade back through the wall while I stabilize it from this side."

"What if we knock out a few of these wall boards and make a stretcher, leaving a gap between the slats for the blade?" Vin suggested.

"Good, do it, quickly," Nathan urged.

Chris, Buck and Ezra rushed to begin their work. Larabee jogged back to the truck and brought it up closer, grabbing the tool kit from behind the seat. He handed off a hammer and stood back as Buck used it to knock a few of the graying boards from the front wall. Standish asked for a screwdriver and began removing the front door. In something like five minutes, they had the door on the ground and were tacking the boards in place with the few nails Chris had in the bottom of his tool kit. They padded it with a couple of saddle blankets that the team leader had in the bed of the truck.

While the others were working on the stretcher, Vin was kneeling behind the cabin with a smooth stone in his hand. When Nathan gave the word, he set the stone against the tip of the blade and pushed. He hoped that the knife would come free easily, so they didn't risk hurting JD in getting him loose. Through the thin wall, he could hear Nathan directing Josiah. After a few seconds, he heard the medic call out that they had JD free. Dropping the stone, he ran around to the front. Buck, Nathan and Josiah were working to maneuver their makeshift stretcher behind JD so they could lay him down. They then gently slid him into the back of the truck. Nathan took the blanket and folded it in quarters before laying it over JD's legs and putting his own jacket over his upper body. Soon, Josiah and Buck's jackets also covered the too-pale form.

"Now, we need to go as quickly and as carefully as we can. I don't want to jar him," Nathan said. He and Buck were on opposite sides of the stretcher to keep it steady. The others got in the cab and they were off, the big truck moving slowly down the rutted road. As soon as he could get a signal, Nathan called for a chopper to airlift JD to the hospital. When they reached the Jag, Ezra got out and fell in behind them in the car.

It took a half hour to reach a place where a life flight chopper could touch down. Nathan and Buck went with JD while the others promised to get there as quickly as they could. While in the air, the paramedic started a couple of IV's to raise JD's blood volume and stave off shock and organ shutdown. As they were touching down on the roof of Denver General, JD began to stir. He flinched at the chopper wash and tried to raise his hands to protect himself. Once they were inside, Buck leaned over him, speaking slowly and calmly.

"JD, it's Buck. You're safe now. Just try to rest. We've got your back. Casey's fine, she's with her aunt. Just rest. I'm right here, kid."

The pain-filled brown eyes opened and focused on the intense blue eyes above him. "Buck? You found me? ... Jameson ... it was Jameson ... he hurt me," JD murmured between panted breaths.

"Don't you worry, we'll get the bastard. You just try to rest."

"San Diego ... gotta stop him ... San Diego," JD said. "Face lift ... stop ... him ... Buck." The last of his newly found strength faded and his eyes drifted closed. The elevator doors opened and the stretcher was rolled quickly toward the ER.

+ + + + + + +

Jameson and his men continued on to the airport when suddenly they came to an abrupt halt. The morning traffic was bumper to bumper and they slowly inched along. A multi-car accident had tied up all except one lane on the highway. The four men in the van became steadily angrier at the delay. There was no exit, no way to avoid sitting in the traffic jam. Jameson ordered his driver to change lanes and ended up going even slower. The minutes became an hour as they crept along. Tempers flared as other cars tried to change lanes and drivers got out of their cars to yell at each other.

+ + + + + + +

After making sure that JD's vitals were stable, the doctors transferred him to another gurney, one with sterile pads to raise him up without touching the tip of the knife. They carefully cut away his remaining clothing and rushed him up to surgery. Buck and Nathan followed the crowd of doctors and nurses until they were diverted to the waiting area where they began to pace.

+ + + + + + +

The black truck and the Jag rolled into parking places and the men leapt out, running across the lot toward the emergency room doors. As soon as they were inside, a nurse directed them up to the surgical floor. An orderly, pushing a patient on a gurney, started to ask them to wait for another elevator until he saw the grim determination in their faces. The tension in the small car was almost palpable until the four men stepped out on the proper floor. As soon as they stepped into the waiting area, Buck and Nathan rushed toward them.

"How is he?" Chris asked immediately.

"He was serious but stable when they took him into surgery. We won't know any more until they get in and see what the knife did to his insides. He did wiggle his toes in the ER, that's a good thing," Nathan imparted calmly.

"Did he wake up at all? Did he say anything?" the team leader asked.

"He said San Diego and face lift," Buck replied, "I'll bet my retirement that Jameson is headed there. He'll get a new face and just disappear."

"We have to stop him. Contact the airport, the train station, the bus station, get them before they get out of Denver," Chris said.

"He could be long gone, Chris. We don't know how long ago he left JD in that cabin," Josiah offered. "And we don't have any more than a vague description of the van."

"We can still get photographs of those cretins out to the proper authorities with the hope that someone will recognize them and contact us," Ezra urged.

"Alright, Buck, you stay here, the rest of us will get to searching for Jameson,-" the blond began.

"I want to be out there, Chris! I can't just sit here! I have to be there when we find this bastard!"

"Buck, you should be here for JD when he comes out of surgery," Vin said softly.

"The kid'll understand. I want to get my hands on the animals that did that to him!"

"Then I shall remain here with him. I will contact you the moment he comes out of surgery," Ezra said.

The men exchanged nervous glances before each nodded. As they were leaving the room, they touched Standish on the shoulder. Buck stopped in the hall, gazing toward the doors that led to the surgical theaters, silently sending his prayers to his roommate. When Josiah gave his shoulder a squeeze, he sighed deeply and turned to follow the others.

+ + + + + + +

Within minutes of the five men leaving, an ambulance pulled in with a patrol car following. Hearing the excitement, Ezra decided to investigate and found a patrolman questioning the medic's.

"Pete, did he regain consciousness? Did he say anything?" Patrolman Foster asked.

"He came around for a few seconds and mumbled something like 'a mole over his right eye.' Sorry, that's all he said."

"Excuse me gentlemen, did I hear you correctly, the miscreant who shot your fellow patrolman had a mole over his right eye?" Ezra asked.

"Who are you?" Patrolman Foster inquired.

"Oh sorry, Ezra Standish, ATF," he told them as he pulled out his identification.

"Yes, that's what he said. At least that's what it sounded like," Pete replied.

"Why do you ask?" Foster asked.

"Well, the man he works for had a good friend of mine brutally beaten and left to die. So any information you can give me would be greatly appreciated. It might help us to apprehend the vermin who have hurt our fellow officers," Ezra explained.

"The only other info I was able to obtain was the license plate number of the van he had called in," the patrolman said.

"Excellent! May I have it? My boss, Chris Larabee, is out looking for him as we speak."

"Did you say Larabee? As in 'The Magnificent Seven' Larabee? You're one of them? It's an honor to be of service, sir."

Rather than feeling a rush of pride, Ezra was mildly irritated at the gushing torrent of praise. "Thank you, Foster. May I have the information, please?" As soon as he had the plate number, he was on the phone to Chris relaying the information.

+ + + + + + +

Armed with the additional information, the team began relaying the news to the police, the highway patrol, and the airport, rail and bus station security officers. Josiah still thought that they were leaving by an overland route. Chris was trying to convince the state police to send up a helicopter to look for the van.

Nathan was monitoring the police radio transmissions. Suddenly, he grabbed the back of the seat and pulled himself forward. "Airport police just reported that Jameson's van was spotted heading for the private airstrip. They want to know if we want them to stop it."

Chris barely looked in the mirror as he changed lanes, ignoring the horns blaring behind him. He gunned the engine and the big truck leapt forward. "Radio ahead and tell them not to stop the van. Tell them that we will be there in a couple of minutes," he told Vin. Nathan's brows rose slightly as he spotted the white peaks of the airport terminal in the distance. He braced his feet against the floorboard and tossed a glance at Josiah, who was also looking doubtfully toward the terminal. Vin obediently informed the airport police not to approach the van. He also gave them a description of their truck and its plate number so that they would not be stopped when they reached their destination.

+ + + + + + +

The van rolled to a stop at the edge of the small building that handled the private planes. They got out, trying to look casual as they grabbed their bags. They strolled into the building with Jameson taking the lead as they walked to the counter. The man at the counter recognized them and grabbed the phone, calling for the plane to be brought from the hanger.

"Mr. James, your plane will be brought around in a moment. Your flight plan has been filed and approved. I hope you enjoy your flight, Sir," the young man said with a smile.

"Thank you, I'm sure I will. Are there many flights ahead of us?" Jameson asked.

+ + + + + + +

"There it is," Buck said as he spotted the van. Chris parked the truck directly behind the van and the five men got out, guns in hand. They jogged to the corner of the building and Vin peered cautiously around toward the front entrance. Jameson and his goons were just coming out, and heading for a small jet that was rolling to a stop. The sharpshooter motioned to the others and they stepped out as one, moving quickly to intercept the men who had left JD to die. The pilot of the plane had just lowered the steps and was coming down when he saw the five men with guns drawn. His eyes widened, alerting Jameson. The four men turned, dropping their bags and reaching for the guns concealed under their jackets.

"ATF, drop your weapons!" Chris shouted as he raised his gun to shoulder height. He immediately began to curse as Buck charged the men, intending to take Jameson down by brute force. The escaped prisoner took aim at the mustached man. Suddenly, two shots rang out and the man fell, bleeding from wounds in his chest. The man they knew only as 'Jonesy' panicked, dropping his gun as Josiah's foot connected with his wrist. He swung, connecting with the graying man's ribs and sending a shock of pain up his injured arm.

The other two men launched themselves at the mustached man, heedless of the fact that their boss had fallen with two potentially fatal wounds. Buck punched the nearer one, sending him careening toward Vin. The other one swung, missing his nose by mere inches. Wilmington plowed his fist into the man's gut, depriving him of air and doubling him over.

Nathan went to his knees, checking Jameson for signs of life. The dying man looked up at the agent kneeling over him and frowned. He tried to raise his hand, to push the black man away. The very act of trying to raise his arm caused a lightning bolt of pain to shoot through his chest. His eyes widened in surprise before he breathed his last, his eyes going blank in death.

Josiah winced as a hard-flung fist connected with his jaw. He countered, driving his left into Jonesy's side as the man tried to whirl away. Catching hold of his windbreaker, Sanchez pulled him back, driving another fist into his head. When the man landed on his back on the pavement, Josiah fell on him, pinning his arms to his sides.

"Forgive me Father for what I am about to do," he intoned skyward as he delivered a backhanded blow to the man's head. "Vengeance may belong to the Lord, but I can go to confession later." He slapped the man's head with his other hand, reveling in the trickle of blood coming from the broken nose.

Chris caught hold of the man Vin was fighting with, holding him just long enough for the sharpshooter to get his bearings again. When Tanner nodded, his fists raised and ready, Larabee gave the man a gentle shove. Vin delivered a solid right to the man's chin, sending him toppling backwards like a felled tree.

Buck feinted right, drawing the man in closer before delivering a roundhouse kick that drove him staggering back. He managed to stay on his feet, just barely, weaving drunkenly as he raised his fists. A tap on his shoulder had him turning around. A hard, hazel-eyed glare bored into him just milliseconds before Chris's fist sent him into darkness.

As soon as the police finished taking pictures and collecting evidence, the team returned to the hospital. Chris knew he would have to speak to Orin soon, but for now his main concern was JD. Ezra called just as they were getting back on the highway to say that the computer whiz was out of surgery and had been moved to a private room. Standish also inquired after Jameson, having seen the breaking news report of a shooting at the airport. Josiah relayed what had happened, pausing to listen to something Ezra said, and then threw back his head to laugh.

"What?" Vin asked.

"Ezra said that since Jameson is dead, perhaps we might be so good as to stop and pick up some decent coffee on our way in. He's been drinking that hospital swill until his taste buds have gone into shock," the profiler replied, earning a snort from Buck. Ezra said that JD was stirring and ended the call.

By the time they had stopped, picked up something to eat and some coffee, traffic had dissipated and they reached the hospital without delay. While Buck went immediately to the bedside to check on JD, Nathan took the chart and studied it, Vin went to the window to open it for some fresh air, Josiah doled out the refreshments and Chris stood in the doorway watching it all. They had come too close to losing their young teammate. JD awakened, just long enough to focus on the face nearest his bed.

"Buck? You look terrible," he mumbled sleepily.

"Now, you know that's damned near impossible, kid," Wilmington replied, the teasing note tempered by the tightness in his throat. "How do you feel?"

"Not bad. Must be getting the good stuff," JD said, his voice trailing off as he surrendered to sleep.

Orin Travis arrived at the hospital to check on Dunne and speak to Larabee about the shooting at the airport. The pilot had given a statement that Jameson was killed after taking aim at Buck, clearing both Vin and Chris in his death. The others were screaming abut their civil rights being violated, especially Jonesy, who had a badly broken nose. In the end, Orin shook his head and complimented the team on doing their usual excellent job.

By early evening, JD's temperature began to rise. Nathan explained that it was expected because the knife had cut through his small intestine in a few places. The doctor was giving Dunne a strong, broad-spectrum antibiotic to counter the effect but it was going to be a rough night. In his delirium, JD cried out, struggling against the gentle restraint of his friends' hands.

"Leave her alone! Casey! Run, Casey!" JD yelled as he thrashed. No matter how many times they told him that his girlfriend was safe, he repeatedly called out for her. It was nearly midnight before his fever finally broke and he slipped into a deep, healing sleep.

The nurse shook her head as she came in to check her patient the next morning. Vin was sitting in a chair that was tipped back, his head tucked to his shoulder as he slept. Josiah was also sitting in a chair, with his long legs resting on another chair. Ezra was sitting at the window, his arm folded on the sill and his head pillowed on his folded jacket. Chris and Nathan had commandeered two rocking chairs, most likely swiped from maternity, and were also asleep, the blond with his feet in the chair with Josiah's while Jackson's feet rested on the floor. Buck was right where she expected him to be, sitting beside the bed with his head resting on one folded arm, his free hand resting lightly on JD's forearm. She moved silently to the side of the bed, noting that her patient was sleeping soundly. As soon as she slipped her hand under the blanket to check the wound for drainage, JD drew a deeper breath and tried to turn on his side. Instantly, his eyes opened and he groaned.

"Don't try to move, you've got staples in your stomach," the nurse cautioned softly.

"JD? It's okay," Buck murmured from habit, as he gave Dunne's arm a squeeze. Realizing that the nurse was there, Wilmington sat up and scooted away from the bed.

"How is your pain this morning?" the nurse asked.

"It wasn't bad until I tried to move."

"I'll get you something for it, then," she said, making a note on the chart.

"I'm hungry," JD said, "Do you think I could have something to eat?"

"Not just yet, I'm afraid. We'll start you on clear fluids after noon and see how you do with that."

After the nurse turned away, JD mumbled under his breath, "It's not every day that I'm hungry enough to eat hospital food."

Knowing that their friend was awake and on the road to recovery, the team took their leave to get cleaned up and get some real sleep. Buck, of course, stayed with JD after giving Vin the key to the apartment and asking him to stop and pick up a change of clothes for him and one for JD, since his clothing had been cut from his body when he arrived. Chris excused himself to head home and tend to the stock. Josiah and Nathan left for a few hours, vowing to return when they had gotten a nap and a shower. Ezra was the last to leave, telling Buck that he was going to stop and check on Officer Lambert.

"Who's that?" JD asked, not recognizing the name.

"Another unfortunate victim of Mr. Jameson and his band of merry murderers. They shot him and left him on the side of the road. He was the one who gave us the license number of the van," Ezra explained. "He came in just after you. If I understood correctly, he took a bullet in the shoulder and was expected to make a swift recovery." Standish touched his finger to an imaginary hat brim as he left the room.

A nurse passed him and entered the room, a basin filled with towels in her hands. Over Buck's snickers, Ezra heard JD groan again, "Aww, hell!"

Nettie and Casey arrived just before lunch. Casey was struggling with the crutches she had been ordered to use until her ankle healed. "JD! Oh, JD!" she exclaimed as she took in the bruised and battered face of her boyfriend. Awkwardly, she maneuvered along the side of the bed until she could lean over and brush her fingers lightly down the side of his face.

"JD, what did they do to you? Are you alright?"

"Case, I'm fine. Sorry you got hurt. Are you alright?"

"I'm fine, just worried about you," she replied as she gently brushed a tendril of hair away from his face.

"My goodness boy, they surely did a job on you," Nettie said. "But it's good to see you're feeling better."

"Yes ma'am, bit sore but, other than that, mighty happy to be alive," he answered, giving Nettie a smile.

"Well, I'll leave you two young ones alone now... Casey, I'll be outside when you're ready to go. "

"Ok, Aunt Nettie. I'll be right along."

"Now take you're time, child," she said, shaking her head once again at the assortment of bruises on the young man's face.

After Nettie left, Casey turned to JD and asked, "What was so important the other night?"

It all came back to him in a rush and he reached for her hand, "It was supposed to be a surprise. It was the anniversary of the first time we met and I ... well I made reservations for dinner at Santiago's.

"Santiago's! JD, that's the most exclusive restaurant in Denver! How did you manage to get reservations?"

"Well, Ezra helped. He knows the owner."

"JD, that was sweet! But I'd have settled for a quiet dinner at home. Just you," she gave him a kiss, "and me," she kissed him again, "and a good movie."

"Now you tell me!" he lamented.

The Loft - One Week Later

"Buck, stop worrying! I'll be fine, go to work... yea I'll call if I need anything, now go," the young agent said in a snit. JD was sick and tired of Buck's mother hen routine and just wanted some time alone. But no sooner did he hang up than the phone rang. Fearing it was Buck calling from the car again, he ignored it and let the machine pick up.

"You know what to do," the recording said. After the beep, a familiar voice called out, "JD, are you there? It's me, Casey."

"Casey, hi, honey. Thought it might be Buck again. He's been a real pain in the... what's up?"

"Are you up for visitors? I have a surprise for you."

"You know I'm always up to seeing you," he answered, his voice turning sexy.

"Great! I'll be there in half an hour. Okay?"

"Okay, see you then." They hung up, leaving JD to wonder just what Casey was up to.

Time flew by and soon the doorbell rang. JD eased himself up off the couch and slowly made his way to the door. When he opened it, he was surprised to see Casey and her neighbor.

"Hi, come on in... what's the surprise?" he asked as he slowly turned and headed back to the couch. He was still a little sore from having the staples removed the day before and he gingerly lowered his body to his seat.

"JD, you remember Jessica, don't you?"

He smiled at the woman who had taken a seat on the other end of the couch, cradling a bundle in her arms. She immediately began to speak, "JD, I was so sorry to hear about what happened to you ... but I can't thank you enough for all your help."

"It was nothing, just glad we could help. What did you have and can I see it?" JD asked.

Placing the blanket wrapped bundle in his lap, she said, "I'd like you to meet John Daniel... JD for short, if that's all right with you."

JD was almost too choked up to speak and nodded his head as he mumbled a 'thank you,' staring at the baby she'd placed in his arms.