There's No Sense in Revenge
Main Characters: All Seven
Type of Story: General
Warnings: Mention of drugs and criminal activity, deaths -- not of our boys -- but death is mentioned and does occur as does some whumping on our boys...Vinster mainly...nothing graphic
Summary: In answer to a challenge...Revenge (in case you didn't already get that from the title...giggle)
Remember, we own nothing.
"This round is on me...and Buck."
"Well, that's mighty gener...and Buck! JD!"
"You mean you don't want to buy this round with me, Buck? Did you want to buy it all by yourself? I'm sorry. I'll let you buy it."
The rest of Team 7 chuckled at JD's deft maneuvering of Buck. Shaking his head in defeat, and a bit of pride in JD's cleverness, Buck laid his half of the round's tab on the table next to JD's. Grinning at his victory, JD scooped it up and headed to the bar with Buck following to pick up the next round of beers.
Team 7 was enjoying each other's company, the fact that it was Friday night and they had a full week of hard earned vacation stretching before them, as well as months and months of work successfully closed behind them. Today federal judges in over eight cities had handed down indictments officially sending over 100 members of the Jungle Junkies, a notorious gang known in several large cities across the United States to be remanded to federal prisons to await trial. The Jungle Junkies had had the head of their organization severed and the majority of their operations shut down.
The Jungle Junkies had been active in many arenas, drugs (hence part of the name), weapons, money laundering, and prostitution just to name a few. The gang had been around for a long time and its membership remained young, ambitious and intensely loyal.
Due to the combined efforts of several enforcement agencies from the ATF, police agencies and parole, a nationwide sweep in eight cities had been coordinated and executed over a one-week period. This resulted in over 400 arrests, hundreds of indictments and ultimately sentences on federal charges for the heads of the organizations in over eight major cities, Miami, Chicago, Detroit, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, and of course, Denver.
The investigation ended the culmination of over three years' work on many agencies' behalf. The real catalyst for the final sweep however had been initiated by Team 7, and it had been due to some undercover work by the team in Purgatorio. Nathan, Josiah and Vin had played a large part of gathering the information that ultimately spread across the nation and enabled the tremendous success.
Vin's concern over the influence of the gang was obvious because of his own close ties in Purgatorio. His kids tried to stay as far away from the thugs as possible, however, in one tragic case the thugs won; Pedro Molina, only son of Juanita and Jorge Molina had accepted the promises made and the thoughts of unlimited money, power and the sense of invincibility. In the end all the promises end up in the same way: drugs, shootings and incarceration. Pedro ended up severely beaten and strung out on heroin. He would forever be changed by the promises of the Jungle Junkies.
Josiah's work in the local shelters kept him in tune to the word on the street, and he only had to lend a kind ear and soak in the information that was imparted, and as for Nathan, he volunteered his EMT skills in a local clinic as often as he could and frequently did ride-alongs with various ambulance crews and those kept him available to see the injuries, the territory and the available weapons and drugs of choice. It was actually Nathan who had found Pedro lying in that alley, close to death.
Both Nathan and Vin went to Pedro's parents and broke the news to them and both men left the hospital shattered as the parents broke down in their pain and grief over what had happened to their only child.
Over the past year and a half the team had been slowly compiling the information and conducting periodic briefings to see if patterns were developing that might lead to a big event. About eight months ago a pattern appeared in recent activity, information coming in and similar crimes in several cities.
Within a couple of months the sweeps were organized, impressive to those on the outside who hadn't known that the various agencies had been touching base every three to six months as developments occurred or questions were raised, and one week in June the warrants were issued, primarily through parole -- as the standard of proof was lower than in the criminal courts and would allow the Feds additional time to prepare their case -- and the streets were swept clean.
Team 7 was credited by many of the enforcement agencies with providing some of the most critical information to the case. Today, when the federal indictments were handed down the team was able to celebrate. They had had to complete reports, attend hearings, participate in grand jury proceedings, be deposed and ultimately testify in Court. Of course none of this occurred in a vacuum and cases, assignments, research and busts had continued on various other operations during this time. To say the least, the team was elated and exhausted.
It would take many more months and in some cases perhaps years before the Jungle Junkie cases were all disposed of as the justice system was slow, overcrowded and tedious, but today all the seven men cared about was that justice had prevailed.
So, as JD and Buck returned to the table and set the chilled glasses of beer on the table, the men toasted their success.
Leavenworth: Federal Penitentiary
Unknown to the triumphant seven, another toast was occurring by another group of men. These men had never physically worked together although together they had headed up the most notorious gang in the nation. They were toasting not their recent indictment, none of them cared too much about the paperwork that had been filed against them instead they were toasting their new plan.
Through a paperwork snafu, such as can readily happen in such an overworked and imperfect system imperfect primarily due to the fact of too many numbers, triplicate forms, faxed copies that are hard to read and a multitude of other weak links three heads of three different factions of the Jungle Junkies had been housed together at Leavenworth.
They decided to take advantage of that administrative oversight and plan their revenge. None of them cared much about the incarceration. They figured they would beat most of the charges or, if not, they would set up shop in prison. The arrogance of the police agencies is what angered them and fueled their plans. They decided it would be best to send a message, attack the Jungle Junkies at your own peril, and the best way to send that message would be to target the very team that was receiving the most acclaim for the alleged downfall of the Jungle Junkies, the ATF's very own Team 7 out of Denver.
So, as Team 7 was raising mugs of beer toasting their success, three men raised their glasses of fine brandy and toasted their plan, Chris Larabee, Vin Tanner, Buck Wilmington, Ezra Standish, Josiah Sanchez, Nathan Jackson, and JD Dunne would be killed, and everyone would know that it was the work of the Jungle Junkies...
The boys were enjoying the round provided by Buck and JD and Buck was about to launch into a joke when his attention was completely taken by the approach of two lovely blondes who, while clothed so that everything was properly covered, the fit of the clothing was so tight that it left little to the imagination. Immediately he counted in his mind all the glasses of beer he'd consumed since they got there and was doubting the amount, although quite a bit, would be enough to make him see double. Not that the sight of two pretty blondes was not worth seeing double...he sprang to his feet and pushed past JD who nearly choked on the beer he was swallowing.
"Well hello, ladies."
And to his immense gratitude both girls stopped, looked him straight in the eye and gave him dazzling smiles as they introduced themselves.
"Hi, I'm Mandy!"
"And I'm Sandy!"
In one moment he was certain he had been sent a gift from heaven and in the next moment his hopes were dashed.
"Which one of you is Vin?"
Buck's jaw dropped while Nathan, Josiah and JD all pointed at their sharpshooter who was quickly looking for the nearest escape. Chris merely leaned back, a small smile creasing his face while Ezra scanned the table and noted everyone's expressions.
The girls took Vin, holding him from both arms and said "Mmmmm... you're nice. You'll be coming with us, and..." then one of them looked Chris' way and asked, "He's all ours until Monday morning, right?"
"Yes." was the dry answer, the smile hidden in the shadows of the saloon.
The girls led Vin away and began chatting back and forth all the way out the door, their voices managed to reach the remaining members of the team for a short time.
"I'm going to enjoy washing your wonderful long hair."
"I'm going to massage you with oil!"
After they had left the Saloon, Buck continued to stand there dumbfounded. At last Josiah stood up and guided him back to his seat. Sitting back down Buck mournfully looked around the table, "How come I never get two girls like that?"
The rest of the team, save Chris, broke out in laughter. Buck swiveled his head to look at each of his colleagues finally resting on Chris who was calmly sipping his beer with a supremely satisfied look on his face.
"And what do you know of this ole pal?"
"Well, I know Vin is shy and not likely to enjoy a fuss being made. So, a little revenge is sweet -- do you remember Cupid's Arrow?"
"Perhaps, Mr. Larabee, you have made a strategic error. While our resident sharpshooter is a bit reticent at sharing his relationships with the finer and fairer sex, he is not without an appreciation for their charms. Sentencing him to a weekend of ministration under their exquisite care is perhaps more a gift than it is a curse."
Chris looked at Ezra and then at Josiah who nodded in agreement while Nathan just chuckled and shook his head. Buck continued to sputter on and JD wouldn't meet Chris' gaze but did laugh quietly in his beer.
Chris sat back and figured, well; at least he'd turned red.
Vin stood outside trying to sneak a moment of peace and solitude. Chris' little gift of the twins was an amusing joke until they had proceeded to treat him to an evening of massage actually that was fine since his back, shoulders and neck ached a bit so he didn't mind that. The time spent in the hot tub sipping some drinks and listening as the girls chatted on wasn't so bad either. However, when it became apparent that they meant to spend the night with him in the same bed and well, Vin's cheeks blushed despite the cool morning air he had had to beg for a reprieve. Donning his best acting face he begged for a night's rest saying he would be better suited for such adventures if he was well rested and, since he was achy and sore and exhausted, he needed a night of solid sleep and everyone would be happier tomorrow.
The girls giggled and oohed and ahhed over him but eventually they allowed him to sleep in the bed, by himself, while they went and raided the fridge and watched a movie.
Despite his discomfort at sleeping under the same roof with two unknown ladies as well as the knowledge that Chris and the rest were having a huge laugh at his expense, Vin slept soundly and restfully and rose the next morning just as the sun did feeling refreshed, his muscles were less sore, thank heavens for the wonders of a massage and a hot tub. Vin made himself some coffee and headed outdoors to enjoy the awakening of the sun.
The little chalet that the girls had taken him to was far enough outside the city limits so that he had an unhindered view of the mountains, and he stood on the porch enjoying the subtle changes in light. Hearing a slight rustling sound off to the side of the porch he cocked his head slightly so as to decipher the noise. Without warning his eyes were blinded as a searing pain erupted at the back of his head. Unaware, he crumpled to the porch.
As quickly and quietly as they had attacked, the two men lifted the unconscious sharpshooter and carried him the short distance to their vehicle, placing him inside they bound, gagged and blindfolded him before speeding away. Inside the cozy retreat that was the scene of last nights little party, Mandy and Sandy slept on unaware.
Pain. Piercing, pounding, unrelenting pain wracked his head and made his entire body weak from the effect. Slowly he controlled his breathing until he could just make out the sensation of movement and the regular humming sound of a vehicle traveling over pavement. Opening his eyes he discovered he could see nothing, the pressure on his eyelids told him he was blindfolded, discouraged and slipping back into unconsciousness he closed them again. His final though as the darkness overtook him was that he was tied up and there was no massage waiting for him this time.
"Yes, who's this?"
"This is Mandy."
"Mandy? Oh, yes, Mandy. Having a good time? Vin's not causing trouble is he? It's only Saturday, you don't need me to come get him, do you?"
"No, no. Actually, I'm calling to find out if he's found his way back to you?"
"What do you mean?"
"We woke up around 8 o'clock this morning and he's gone. His coat is still here and the pot of coffee he made was still on but well, actually, Mr. Larabee, the thing is we found the mug he was drinking his coffee from out on the porch but he's nowhere to be found. It just seemed kind of strange, he doesn't normally do stuff like that does he?"
"No," Chris felt a chill slowly grow in his stomach, Tanner never up and left his morning coffee unfinished, never. "That would be a bit unusual for Vin. You didn't see him at all this morning?"
"No, he was already gone."
"Okay. He probably just went hiking, but why don't you gals come on back anyway. Leave his stuff there and I'll come pick it up."
Chris hung up the phone slowly and thought for a few moments. He had been awakened suddenly at sunrise by a shocking nightmare that he couldn't remember except that it left him gasping for air and shaking. Now, however, with the call from the girls stating that Vin had disappeared leaving behind his mug of morning coffee and obviously gone for a couple of hours, since the sun had arisen before 6:00 a.m. he felt a sense of foreboding.
Grabbing his truck keys and throwing on his jacket he stopped briefly in the kitchen to rinse out his mug and turn off the coffee maker. He'd head out personally to gather up Vin's stuff and check out the surrounding cabin.
Chris gave Pony and Peso a quick check in their corral as he started his truck and headed down the drive. The weather was clear and the horses would enjoy the day in the turnout. As he drove down the road he saw his neighbor, Charlie Peterson, working on a fence near the edge of his own property, slowing slightly but not stopping he rolled down his window and shouted to Charlie who looked up as the truck approached.
"Thanks, Charlie!" Charlie merely waved in return. Chris appreciated have a neighbor he could count on to keep tabs on his horses and his place when his ever changing job took him away. He tried to repay the favors but more often than not he was in debt to Charlie. Fortunately it didn't seem that a tab was kept.
Turning his attention to Vin Chris wondered if perhaps he was overreacting. Vin was intensely shy about all things personal, but Chris knew Vin had a healthy and normal appreciation for women. Vin was probably just having a little fun at Chris' expense for embarrasing him in front of all the guys, still it wasn't like Vin to cause the girls any anxiety. He wouldn't mind giving Chris an ulcer or migraine but he wouldn't trouble the girls who were innocently carrying out the joke. Then again, Vin could just be enjoying the spectacular Colorado air and communing with nature, then again, he wouldn't have left his coffee behind...argh...so wrapped up in his head sifting and sorting through the possibilities, Chris didn't notice the blue extended cab pick-up that had been on his tail since waving to Charlie and had been following discreetly but persistently.
It wasn't until late that afternoon on a quiet stretch of road that a lone driver, who was returning from a fantastic day hiking with only himself and his dog noticed the skid marks on the road. Funny, he mused to himself, he didn't remember seeing them that morning as he drove up to his favorite hiking spot. Seeing only the skid marks and nothing else out of the ordinary he didn't give them more than a passing thought and then continued on his way home.
Had he taken a moment to stop and investigate he would have noted the black Ram truck just over the edge of the road hidden from sight due to the dip in the terrain. The truck was empty, keys left in the ignition, airbag deployed. On the front seat was a cell phone and a half finished mug of coffee in the cup holder traces of blood were on the side window nothing else of Chris Larabee was left in the vehicle.
Vin stirred as the noise of the door opened disturbed his fitful sleep. Opening his eyes didn't improve the odds since all he saw was the same darkness that had been present before, day or night had no meaning in this place, wherever it was.
There was the unmistaken thudding sound as something was dropped from some height. He heard the shuffle of feet, felt the gaze of someone staring intently at him and then the feet moved away and after a moment the door opened and closed again and he was left with whatever, or whoever had been deposited with him.
He stayed still and listened, his eyes peering uselessly around the room. He tried to move only to feel the stab of agony that pierced his skull, the throbbing pain that had been his constant companion since awakening 'here' increased with a ferocity whenever he tried to move around so as a result he stayed still but he knew something was different. He was no longer alone.
He extended his arm and tried to call "who's there?" but his voice was raspy, a combined result of having been punched and kicked earlier as well as having been without water since he had awakened to the darkness and the pain the first time.
His croaking question was answered and he was at once relieved and saddened to hear the voice of his best friend.
"What did they do to you, Vin?"
"Chris?" he asked, and with his hand reached out trying to find his friend's face, "Did they hit you?"
"No, they hit the Ram, and told me to come with them if I wanted you to be alive tomorrow. It really wasn't an invitation I could ignore."
Despite his weariness and deep pain Vin couldn't help but grin slightly at Chris' poor attempt at humor.
"Let me take a look at you." Chris reached out to Vin's battered form angry at the swelling of his friend's face and more than a little concerned at the whiteness of Vin's appearance and raspy quality to his breathing. Even though he tried to be gentle Vin still winced at the slightest touch.
"Don't know what good it'll be to take a look, j'st dark in here, can't see nothing at all anyway."
Chris' skin went cold at Vin's words, sure there wasn't much light in this little room, just the small bit that snuck under the door and the bit that filtered down from the two windows high up on the wall that weren't more than a foot high and about two feet wide and were dirty but he could still see Vin.
"Well, just you let me worry about what I can and can't see, I've been eating lots of carrots lately."
Chris moved his hands gently over Vin's slight frame feeling the tenderness at his ribs, thankfully no rigidity in his abdomen that would indicate internal bleeding, carefully checked each of his limbs and while he felt many bruises and some smaller cuts, nothing appeared to be broken.
Vin passively allowed the examination only wincing and uttering slight grunts of pain when Chris probed the knot and dried blood on the back of his head and probed his ribs. Chris figured, more hoped, the reason Vin couldn't see wasn't due to the blow to his head but more due to the dual black eyes and significant swelling of both eyes and cheeks that made it hard for him to see.
"Don't suppose you snuck in some water with ya?" Vin's raspy whisper reached Chris' ears after he had finished his examination and sat back momentarily to gather his thoughts.
"Sorry, pal, didn't think to bring any with me. The invite was a might sudden."
"S'okay, I'm a bit tired right now anyway."
Chris watched as Vin's form relaxed completely as he slipped back unconscious. Chris felt his fury burn inside. He didn't know who these people were or what they wanted but by God, he would know. He would know who it was who snatched his friend away from a cabin that no one knew about and beat him mercilessly and who had then managed to drive him off the road and take him in broad daylight.
Moving carefully and slowly he eased Vin up and maneuvered the two of them until Vin was leaning against him and Chris could maintain contact, assuring himself that Vin was, in fact, still with him.
Early Sunday Afternoon
"You see, Ezra, you get to pick up Vin in Purgatorio or there will be problems." Buck said over the murmuring of the others.
"I fail to see the problem that clearly, Mr. Wilmington" answered Ezra.
"You don't do you? Have you forgotten about..." said Buck smiling evilly.
Seeing that smile froze Ezra´s blood and his brain started to process images from the past year, ´What could have Buck been talking about? ´ He thought to himself and then the realization hit him before he could slip his poker face on and he knew he had betrayed himself.
Buck pounced the second he saw the realization strike Ezra. "I see you remembered what I was talking about."
"Well, I don't think that helping Mr. Tanner would make me this... vulnerable, I only had a very minor part..."
"Minor part? I believe it was you who created the fake profile for Chris for that little set up at the dating service, if I recall there were such things as enjoys the ballet, can't get enough opera, intense clothes shopper who is into fashion and fabrics such as silk, cashmere and wool..."
"Enough!" Ezra gulped at the thought of Chris finding out about his big, well, really big secret, and he decided that he´d comply with Buck´s idea for now... until he could devise a way to tilt the odds in his favor.
He walked rapidly but with dignity out to his Jag and set off towards Purgatorio.
"Great. I'm sure I can sneak in and pick Mr. Tanner up in this god-forsaken...ah good afternoon, gentlemen, good afternoon."
Ezra waved at some of the teenagers who were walking towards him and casting strange glances his way. Nodding his head and giving them a quick salute he hurried faster, mumbling under his breath as he all but ran to the door to Vin's apartment building and rapidly climbed the stairs to knock on Vin's door.
"Mr. Tanner, we're going to be late." Knocking again Ezra looked about him nervously but there was no one present.
"Surely Buck or JD could have picked you up, they live in closer proximity to this humble abode." Trying the door knob Ezra just shook his head, tsk tsk quietly at Vin's lack of security. Pushing open the door he stepped inside the quiet and empty apartment.
A quick search of the kitchen and the front room, which meant Ezra stood still and looked. showed him no one was home. Taking the plunge he strode quickly through the rooms and tried the bedroom door, locked tight. Ezra knew Vin always locked that room when he was gone.
"If he's decided to head to Larabee's ranch on his own I will...I will find some subtle method of exacting retribution for causing me to drive down into this den of iniquity for no logical reason. Sometimes the man astounds me, with his photographic memory do you think it possible he could remember that we agreed he'd ride with someone out to our esteemed leader's domicile for a celebratory feast?!"
Shaking his head in frustration Ezra retraced his steps, closed the door to Vin's apartment and headed back down the stairs. Once outside he looked up and down the street. Amazingly his Jag was still safe and sound in front of the building; looking at it briefly he almost heard it begging him to drive him quickly away to somewhere safe.
"Just a moment, be patient, why I do these things I'll never know and certainly never own up to but..." Ezra walked quickly to the west side of the building and peered down the street to see if Vin's Jeep was parked there. Nothing. Walking quickly back the way he came he muttered soothingly to himself or his Jag, neither would ever confess, and looked down the street on the east side of the building, halfway down on the left sat Vin's Jeep.
Surprised, Ezra started down the sidewalk and had almost reached Vin's Jeep when strong arms grabbed him around the neck and pulled him quickly and silently into an alcove. There was no one on the street to notice the abduction save a tom cat who was searching for a juicy mouse or perhaps some pretty little she cat. The cat watched with unblinking green eyes for a moment and then, when quiet returned, went back to his solitary prowl.
"I bet he went to that fancy coffee shop he loves so much, and is checking his watch, then he'll come back here and say Vin wasn't home" JD assured Buck "Here, 20 on it."
"Hey, kid, you have to be pretty sure to bet a 20 on that." teased Buck.
"Nah, Buck, it's Ezra we're talking about. He hates to go to Purgatorio. He wouldn't go there; I bet he called Vin and made him meet him somewhere, probably bribed him with a coffee."
"Yeah, that could be true, both are like oil and water, but when it comes to a good prank, or to take advantage of us, they act like twins, no, closer than twins" said Buck with admiration for his two friends.
Nathan was on the phone, but his other ear registered the words from Buck and JD and he was smiling, just at the thought of Ezra calling Vin into action "I'm with you JD, another 20, here." And he handed the 20 dollars to the kid.
Josiah was reading and made a plane with another 20 letting it fly Buck's way. Buck caught the flying machine and, laughing to himself, took all the bets on his own. "I'll be a rich man tomorrow, if I keep on this one."
"No, no, no..." said JD and took the money from Buck's hands "I'll take care of the money until they come back."
"Hey! Where did you learn that so fast?" asked Buck in a hurt voice; "you've been too close to Ezra lately.
By Chris' watch it was now late Sunday afternoon. Their captors, whoever they were, had been kind enough to provide a small amount of water and allow them each to attend to their private business. Chris was worried since Vin continued to stumble due to his inability to see and likely concussion. This was definitely not how he expected to start his week long vacation.
The men that had forced him off the road had worn masks, so he hadn't any indication of what they looked like, their speech patterns were definitely not from around here, sounded a bit more Midwest but he wasn't certain.
He was more than slightly concerned about Vin's physical condition and wondered why whoever had taken them both had beaten Vin repeatedly while he hadn't received a scratch or a bruise other than what the seatbelt and airbag had left and those were minor.
While he was sorting the various pieces the door opened and somebody was pushed inside so that their form sprawled on the floor mere feet from where Larabee and Vin were.
"Come with me," ordered the man who was masked and standing silhouetted in the door.
He retorted, "No."
In response the man produced a gun from under his jacket and pointed it first at Vin and then at the other man who lay on the floor.
"I'd reconsider that answer or you can choose."
"Which one gets a bullet, Tanner or Standish?"
** Standish? ** Chris peered closer at the figure sprawled on the floor and was rewarded as Ezra slowly uncurled and raised himself somewhat shakily to his elbows and gave him a wry grin. Chris noticed that while Ezra had a bruise on his jaw and a little dried blood near his temple he didn't notice any other obvious signs of distress.
Not wanting to leave Vin but persuaded by the continued presence of the gun he gently lowered Vin to the floor and whispered to Ezra as he leaned forward to get up, "Take care of him." Ezra nodded once in reply. Chris stood and proceeded to the door stopping momentarily to gaze at his two men before being pushed and prodded from the room.
They followed a long corridor, made several turns that appeared to Chris as if they were doubling back on themselves, and he got the distinct impression that they climbed a bit although there were no stairs until finally they stepped into another room. One man was waiting for him. He didn't wear a mask. He handed Chris his badge.
"It's three in the afternoon, by seven you'll be back here with my brother. You'll make sure he's out of that prison totally unharmed and free of any charges" and the man handed him a folder "Here is what you need to hand the guards, coming from you, they won't ask anything." Chris took the folder that was offered but continued staring straight at the man in front of him.
"If you talk to anyone call anyone stop anywhere other than what is outlined in that folder, your two friends will be dead without hesitation. Is that clear?"
"How do I know they're still going to be alive when I get...who am I getting out of jail?"
"My brother, Mario Saldagna!"
"I don't have the kind of authority. They're not going to release him to me."
This was crazy Larabee thought. There's no way Saldagna was going to be released to his custody.
"The authority is in that folder, and, Mr. Larabee, we'll be waiting for you and watching you. You'll see your two colleagues' faces. If you don't behave as expected, you'll see them die, right in front of you."
Josiah, Nathan, Buck and JD climbed slowly out of Josiah's suburban and looked around at the quiet ranch. It was close to 5:00 and they expected to see Vin and Ezra grinning and waving at them from the deck off the side of the house.
After waiting over 30 minutes and receiving no answers to repeated calls to their cell phones the remaining four figured Ezra and Vin were pulling a prank and decided to head out to the ranch figuring they'd arrive late and have to endure the ribbing of their friends. Instead the ranch house looked quiet and Pony and Peso were standing at the gate waiting to be let in for their evening feed.
Stretching his back and looking around Buck was about to call out when the barn door opened and all four's attention turned to the barn expecting to see Chris coming out to bring his horses in for their dinner. Instead, Charlie Peterson appeared and walked rapidly in their direction.
"What are you all doing here?" The amiable neighbor inquired with a quizzical expression.
"We planned a cook-out today with Chris and the rest of the team." Buck stepped forward and shook Charlie's hand in greeting. "How come you're here, Chris need to go away suddenly?"
Charlie looked at each man briefly as if gathering his thoughts before returning his attention to Buck. "I saw Chris yesterday morning. He drove by me and yelled thanks and waved. At first I figured he was just thanking me for the last several months when he needed my help with the horses and keeping and eye on the property, but late yesterday afternoon I was watching the sun set and noticed the horses still out. They'd been out since right after breakfast. Chris would never have left them out that late in the day. I came over and brought them in and took care of them and I've been taking care of them today.
I figured Chris must have mentioned he needed my help again and I just forgot. If I don't write things down, I plum forget. With you guys showing up here today though, now I'm guessing I didn't forget something. Was Chris supposed to be here all weekend?"
Now the four men were silent and exchanged glances amongst each other before responding.
"As far as any of us know he wasn't going anywhere. We planned on Friday night to come out here and throw some chicken and burgers on the grill. You're saying you saw him leave yesterday?" Buck was concerned, if Chris left yesterday and was still gone he would have called one of them, and he always made sure Pony and Peso were looked after.
"Look, I gotta get home myself, the missus is having her sister over for dinner. I'm going to bring in the horses and feed them, they're all set, stalls are clean, plenty of grain, hay and water. They'll be good until morning. I'll take care of them until I hear different from you, Buck." Charlie shook hands with Buck again and then departed to take care of the impatient horses who were crowding the corral gate.
"Well this doesn't make any sense, Buck. I mean Chris knew we were coming, at least he would have called Vin and told him he needed to cancel and Vin would have called one of us and even if Vin forgot, unlikely I know, Josiah, he would have remembered when Ezra showed up and the two of them would have called." JD had no choice but to stop there as he had run out of air and took a deep breath, taking advantage of the opening Nathan chimed in.
"Except neither Vin nor Ezra is answering his phone; what if whatever took Chris away took one or both of them away, too."
"Except Ezra only left us about an hour and twenty minutes ago..." Josiah paused for a moment as his thoughts caught up with him, "If Ezra went to Purgatorio and didn't find Vin, he would have been on the phone grumbling the second he realized he was on a fool's errand and he would have high tailed it back to us and berated us the whole trip out here."
"Josiah's right," Nathan's calm voice was tinged with concern. "We have to assume that Ezra is gone against his will because, if he wasn't and he made it to Purgatorio, he would have either returned to us with Vin or driven out here on his own and clearly neither of them are here, nor answering their phones.
We have to assume he either never made it to Purgatorio or, when he did get there, something happened, and we also need to assume that whatever happened to Ezra has already happened to Vin because, if Vin was in Purgatorio waiting for Ezra to show up, then Vin would be on the phone looking for him or would have driven himself out here and clearly that hasn't happened either.
If Chris is gone suddenly and didn't have time to notify Vin, and if Vin is gone which we have to assume because Ezra didn't come back then we have to assume that whatever happened to Ezra has already happened to Vin and to Chris."
"So what the heck happened?"
"That, Brother Buck, is the million dollar question. Why don't you and JD head to Purgatorio and see what you can find, talk to anyone there and see if they've seen either Vin or Ezra. Nathan and I will check out the house and see if Chris left any indication of where he was going."
Josiah and Nathan had been at Chris' for about an hour. They figured JD and Buck had probably reached Purgatorio maybe within the last 15 minutes or so and hopefully would be calling with an update any minute now.
The two men had searched all the obvious places for any sign of where Chris may have been going. On the counter they found a list of things Chris had written to pick up for their Sunday cook out, Beer, Soda, Chips, Salsa, Charcoal, as well as a list of other errands such as the feed store and the hardware store. The fact that the list remained on the counter was indication enough to the two men that wherever Charlie had seen Chris going yesterday morning, it wasn't part of Chris' weekend plans or he would have taken the list of errands with him.
His answering machine was blank, none of the team had called him and since Mary was away with Billy visiting some out of town relatives during the week-long school break, she hadn't called either. There was laundry waiting to be washed and the coffee pot was still sitting in the sink with dried splotches of coffee at the bottom of it. It was obvious that when Chris had left yesterday, he had not come back, just as Charlie had said.
With very little to go on the two men were stumped as to what had occurred to Chris. Nathan and Josiah split up the local hospitals and began checking to see if anyone matching Chris' description had been admitted. They had worked their through a little over half of the ten main hospitals, omitting the half dozen or so behavioral health centers and primary care centers when Chris' home phone rang. Both men were on opposite sides of the long great room so as not to disturb the other's conversation and stared for a moment at Chris' phone.
Josiah reached it first and checked the caller ID: O. Travis. Somewhat puzzled he picked up the phone.
"Hello, Larabee residence."
"Hello, Chris? Who is this, Josiah? Is that you?"
"Yes, Judge, this is Josiah. What has you calling here on a Sunday afternoon?"
"I'm looking for Larabee. Put him on the phone, please." While the Judge was attempting to be polite Josiah's eyebrows lifted slightly as he discerned the underlying tension or was it more like anger in their boss' boss' voice.
"Well, Judge, that's not something I am able to do at the present time. Nathan and I are here and Chris isn't." Deciding to plunge ahead he didn't wait for a response and instead decided to tell the Judge what he knew.
"We were all supposed to meet out here today for a cook out. Nathan and I are here, no one else is. We sent JD and Buck to Purgatorio to look for Vin and Ezra who were supposed to come out together, and we've been unable to contact them. As for Chris, all signs point to him having left yesterday morning, according to his neighbor, and he hasn't returned. Nathan and I are calling Denver hospitals looking to see if he's turned up there."
"Don't bother," the Judge interrupted. "He was at Englewood Penitentiary not that long ago. I got a call from the warden there. He was not very happy at releasing one of his prisoners on a Sunday under such circumstances but since Judge Versaille's name was on the paperwork, he had no choice. However, since he released Mario Saldagna to the custody of one Chris Larabee of the Denver branch of the ATF and Warden Bowen knows I head the Denver ATF, he decided to give me a call and find out directly from me why I hadn't given him a heads up on this. You can imagine my surprise to receive such a call and then you can imagine the warden's subsequent anger, concern and overall bewilderment as well as mine when he realized I knew nothing about it.
So, long story short, I'm calling to find out what the hell is going on and now I find out that Chris was last seen yesterday, hasn't been home and you can't find Ezra or Vin either. Is that the sum and substance of the situation, Josiah?"
"That's it, Judge. I'll get a hold of JD and Buck and have the two of them head to the office. Nathan and I will pack up here and be there as quick as we can."
While Nathan and Josiah had been conducting their fruitless search and having their subsequent conversation with Judge Travis, Buck and JD had been conducting their own investigation during the long ride back to the city.
Buck drove trying to divide his attention between the road and looking over at JD's computer screen.
"Buck, keep your eyes on the road. I'll let you know if I find anything. So far I've surfed through the police files looking at all traffic incidents between yesterday morning and now. Nothing. I've issued a BOLO on Chris' truck, and Ezra's Jag. I'd issue one on Vin's Jeep but for all we know it's parked outside his building since he didn't drive it to the Saloon and he left with the girls so..."
"Yeah, I know. Once we get there we'll decide." Buck hated waiting.
"Okay. I'm in the dispatcher's files now "
"You're in the what? Are you sure this is something we're allowed to do?"
"Of course, Buck! I wouldn't be doing it if not, what do you think I am, a hacker?" JD thought that Ezra would be proud of him if he heard him just now, he'd managed to convincingly combine disbelief, surprise and a little bit of dismay in his voice.
"Mmmmm... would you be offended if I answered with a yes to that last question?" teased Buck.
"Hey!..." JD grinned. Of course he knew it was wrong to access those files and sites,
but in times like these, the only thing that mattered was to find his friends... at any cost. He'd answer to his actions later if necessary.
"We're here, get your vest on" ordered Buck while parking the Ram in front of Vin's building.
"Do you think that's necessary?" asked JD?
"Positive!" Buck replied as he exited the vehicle and pulled his vest on. Without checking on JD, he knew the kid would comply; he checked his gun at his hip and headed towards the building.
JD exited the vehicle slower than Buck since he needed to secure his computer in lock down mode so no one could access his screen. Then, standing at the passenger's door he reached in the back to grab his vest. At that precise moment JD registered movement on his right. Before he could make a sound a hand was roughly clamped over his mouth and both his arms were painfully yanked behind his back. Throwing his weight against the man behind him JD managed to kick off the truck side. The sound was enough to alert Buck who was already halfway inside Vin's building.
Turning back Buck was able to catch the briefest glance of JD's legs flailing in the air before he disappeared from his sight.
"What the hell!" In a second he was outside looking both ways for any sign of his young friend. He chose to head to the left side of the building and running that way he saw a brown car parked and two men were stowing "something" inside the trunk. That "something" looked very familiar to him and his instincts kicked in.
Running to the car, gun in hand, he warned the men "ATF! Hands up!" Just as quick one of the men popped up from behind the car and fired a bullet at him. Buck hesitated a millisecond and fired back, wounding one of the men by the trunk. The other man took advantage of Buck's distraction to slam the trunk closed and jump in the driver's seat.
The car started to move and Buck saw he was losing the battle to get JD free. He ran after the car and shot at the tires, on his second shot he was successful and his satisfaction in watching the tire blow out turned to fear as he saw the car fishtail wildly before impacting with the side of another car parked on the street.
Running at top speed to the car he almost missed the intent of another car that appeared seemingly from nowhere. When it stopped by the brown car Buck hoped it was just a Good Samaritan, however, that hope was dashed when he saw an arm extend from the driver's side and fire a bullet into the driver of the brown car that was now stopped with one blown tire, and a second man jumped from the new car, ran to the trunk and popped it open.
Just as quickly though Buck had hope again as he saw JD's legs shoot out from the trunk knocking the second would be kidnapper to the ground.
"ATF!!! Federal Agent, freeze!!!" Buck was less than 50 feet from them now and the man that JD knocked to the ground decided to cut his losses. He ran back to his car and barely had time to close the door behind him before it took off.
"JD, you okay?" Buck yelled at his partner as he cautiously approached the driver's side of the car.
"Yeah." Buck spared him a brief glance not wanting or needing to be distracted from the potential threat still seating in the driver's seat of the brown car. He needn't have worried. The man was dead, one shot straight to the forehead.
Returning to the rear of the car he helped JD out. In the briefest of encounters the would be kidnappers had managed to throw a cloth sack over JD's head and cinch it closed as well as secure his hands with zip ties. Removing the restraints from his partner he gave him a cursory examination.
JD swatted Buck's probing hands away.
"Take it easy, Buck, I ain't one of your girls."
Buck was about to reply when a single gunshot split the air this time coming from behind them. Both agents ducked for cover behind the car. No further gunshots were heard, only the squealing of tires and the sound of a car engine accelerating away was heard.
Both agents cautiously rose and checked around them. "Buck, look." Buck followed JD's pointing arm. The man he had wounded when JD was being stuffed in the truck now appeared to be very much dead. Whoever had tried to take JD was intent on not leaving any living traces behind.
Buck took his phone out and called the police department to take care of the bodies. "I couldn't see the plates, kid, could you?"
"It was something like AI then I think it was a V or a U, can't remember anything else. I should be able to run a trace through the DMV and narrow down the possibilities."
"Why don't you get to work on that, Hacker, and I'll talk to the police. I can hear them coming now. I guess we can report three missing federal agents while we're at it. What's happened here pretty much gives us a good idea about Vin's current situation, don't you think?"
Nodding, JD left Buck standing guard at the smashed brown car containing the dead driver and he headed back to Vin's building and climbed into Buck's truck and began accessing the DMV files.
JD sat in the front seat working on his lap top and periodically looked up to watch Buck talking with the police who responded to the shooting. At one point one of the officers approached him and spent several minutes taking JD's report of the incident. After that was done, however, JD was left to continue his work.
He had planned to call Josiah or Nathan out at the ranch but once again found his cell phone completely discharged. He would have charged it but Buck had the truck keys and he didn't want to run Buck's truck battery down by charging his phone and he didn't want to interrupt Buck and ask for the keys because then he'd endure Buck's teasing about how come a techno nerd like him couldn't keep his phone charged.
He figured Buck would be calling Josiah or Nathan anyway and decided to keep working on the DMV records and checking on any updates on Ezra's Jag or Chris' truck. Good thing they'd held off on the BOLO on Vin's Jeep. The one thing that was normal in this day was that Vin's jeep was indeed parked outside his apartment building.
While JD sat working in the truck he didn't sit there alone, Tyron one of Vin's kids,
who looked more like a brick wall because of his size and muscle build, was
sitting in the driver's seat. Buck had made sure someone imposing was with him.
After about 30 minutes Buck returned to the truck.
"Thanks, Tyron." Buck exchanged places with Tyron who shook his hand.
"I told JD that no one has seen Vin since he left for work Friday morning. We didn't think much of it since he often heads off on the weekend. Here," Tyron reached into his pocket and pulled out a white hankerchief. "You might want this though. One of your team, I think his name is Ezra was here earlier. Well, I never saw him but I did see his car, that's a tight ride he has. Anyway, one of the neighborhood kids found this around the corner near Vin's Jeep. No one down here has anything like this. Sorry I can't be of more help."
Buck took the white linen handkerchief and noticed the embroidered initials on the corner, ES. "That's all right. We'll find him." Buck sounded more confident than he felt. Turning to check on JD he saw his partner back to his usual high energy self.
"Just got a hit on the BOLO. A tow truck agency towed Chris' Ram a couple of hours ago. They took the car to the closest police station there, I think it's... yes, here. It says it's the 35th precinct; we'll find the car there."
Buck started the truck and fastened his seatbelt. Next to him JD quietly did the same.
"So Ezra was here. I guess that means you won the bet."
"Yeah, well there's more. While I was outside talking with the police Nathan called. Seems we're to head over to the office. Judge Travis will meet us all. We have to figure out what Vin's disappearance, Ezra's lost handkerchief, Chris' abandoned truck on a county road all mean in the context of the fact that a couple hours ago Chris walked into Englewood Federal Penitentiary with release papers for one Mario Saldagna."
"That's right, kid. Chris broke a federal prisoner out of jail this afternoon."
As the four free members of Team 7 were making their way to the ATF offices to piece together what was and was not known, Chris Larabee, leader of Team 7 was tied, hooded completely disoriented, not to mention nauseous as he was jostled around in the back of the van.
A few hours before he had been free in the physical sense, driving a car, showing his credentials and waltzing out of a federal prison with a convicted man in his custody. Of course that false sense of freedom was tempered by a couple of things, first and foremost he had the mental picture of Vin's bloody and bruised face as well as Ezra's exhausted, confused face constantly flashing in his head.
Second, upon arriving at the entrance of the penitentiary he was reminded of the grim threat to his two friends as he walked to the entrance. Accompanied by one of his abductors they slowed their walk toward the prison as they came next to a white van that had followed them. Just as they came to the side of the van the door opened slightly and he paused a fraction and saw Vin and Ezra barely five feet from him, both with guns pressed to their heads.
Whoever these guys were they were bold. They brought guns and hostages right onto the grounds of a federal prison. Of course they also knew where all the cameras and guards were and each time they pulled a little maneuver designed to keep Chris in line they did it in the exact spot where they would not be seen by any of the prison guards or cameras.
Chris returned with his 'prisoner' and pretend associate to the car that had been given him to drive. The 'prisoner' was seated in the back and Chris was told not to drive this time but to take a seat in the front passenger's seat. He complied and his reward was to be handcuffed to the handle in the side of the door.
As they drove back towards Denver Chris was furiously trying to create a plan in his head. He had no way to communicate with the rest of his team and two of his agents were in mortal danger. While it was no question in his mind to do what was demanded to preserve Vin and Ezra's lives he battled inwardly with how simple a plan it was to spring a prisoner. No public cries for ransom, no high profile hostage situation with media attention; fast, quick, vicious and thus far successful.
While Chris was mentally battling his sense of right and wrong, life and death he was aware of the tense, escalating dialogue between the two men with him.
"You bastard, you left me there, like a dog, for them to catch me! You betrayed me!" Mario had been freed of the handcuffs once his associate had assisted him into the back seat and now he leaned forward with his head close to the men in the front and directed his anger at the driver.
"What are you talking about? I never left you. Besides, that's all in the past, you're free now. Big brother made sure to take care of his baby brother who was too stupid to know when to run like the rest." the driver retorted.
Chris would later reflect that that comment was the fatal error on the driver's part. Saldagna was itching for blood and to have his words belittled by the driver, who while Chris didn't know his identity or his place in this scheme it was obvious Saldagna knew and figured this man was little more than an errand boy for Saldagna's brother; an expendable errand boy.
The next few seconds passed so quickly and yet Chris knew instinctively from his years in law enforcement what was going to occur. The driver had erred and that would cost him dearly. Saldagna wasn't experienced enough or made of the same stuff that career criminals tend to be made of, patience and control. He was hot headed, vindictive and tended to act without regard for the consequences.
Chris could only watch in his uncomfortable, handcuffed position as Saldagna reached for the driver's gun in his shoulder holster. The driver wrenched the steering wheel from side to side in an effort to throw Saldagna off balance. He succeeded long enough to send the man in the back seat against the door on the passenger side; Mario was tenacious though and clawed his way forward, braced the gun right behind Chris ear and, aiming at the driver's head, pulled the trigger.
Behind them in the white van the men exchanged looks in disbelief as the car they were following swerved from side to side and then jerked hard to the right before it lost speed and its momentum carried it off the road and into the ditch. Cursing they stopped the van and, after checking to see that their prisoners were secure in the back, ran to the car that was stopped, nose first in the ditch.
Reaching it they split up and one went to the driver's side only to take a quick step back as he was met with the blood smeared window. Turning away he opened the back door and immediately raised his hands and backed up. Mario was sprawled on the back seat, blood run from a small cut on his forehead. It wasn't the small amount of blood that was of concern; it was the gun that was leveled at him that had the man backing away.
"Easy, Mr. Saldgana, easy. Antonio sent us. Okay. We're with you. Antonio wants us to get you safe and sound back to him." Using the Mr. Saldagna probably saved his life. Mario was mollified that this one at least understood he was someone to be treated with respect. He lowered the gun and exited the vehicle.
On the other side Chris' unconscious form was being removed from the vehicle.
"This one's still alive. Geez, Mario, did you have to shoot them both?"
"Didn't, only fired one shot."
"Well, this one's got blood coming out of his ear as well as from the side that hit the window when he impacted."
"Held the gun near his head, probably the blast of it going off made his ear bleed."
"Yeah, well, he'll be a nice addition to the two we got in the back of the van. Your brother wants them all back for whatever reason." Hefting Chris to his shoulder he carried him up the slope and towards their van. His partner reached the back of the van and opened the door. Inside Ezra and Vin were both conscious and bound. Ezra's glare of anger quickly turned to a look of concern as he saw Chris slung over one of the men's shoulder like a sack of grain.
Mario immediately recognized Vin and Ezra as two of the mighty ATF team that had recently become his sworn enemy and, still pumped up with adrenaline from his escape his anger and the thrill that only those who enjoy taking a life can feel, grabbed the nearest of the two captive men, Vin, and hauled him out of the back of the van and delivered a hard kick. Fortunately for Vin's ribs he had landed away from Mario so, while no further damage was done to his bruised ribcage, he did receive a vicious hit to the middle of his back. Instantly he couldn't breathe and the pain overwhelmed him so that he blocked out everything else.
Incensed at this latest attack on his colleague Ezra launched himself at Mario and managed to get a rather feeble hit across his shoulders as he hadn't been able to fully gather his legs beneath him. Mario whirled from Vin and delivered a quick and brutal chop to Ezra's larynx that dropped him to the ground.
Mario was ready to deliver more punishment but found that he was held back by his two companions, one of which had decided to drop Larabee on the ground next to the writhing and sightless Vin.
"Mario, Mario!! Take it easy. These guys aren't going anywhere. Let's get out of here and get back to your brother. Don't worry. The plan is to kill them all just not yet."
Mario backed away and paced up and down the side of the road for a few moments and then angrily turned back to the men. "Fine, load them in there and let's get going." He was mollified a bit to see the speed at which the two men followed his orders and deposited their prisoners into the back of the van.
Once their prisoners were secured inside, the men climbed back in the van and proceeded down the road leaving behind their car with its dead, former driver.
Team 7 Office
Nathan and Josiah arrived about 20 minutes after JD and Buck and found them waiting in the conference room with Judge Travis.
Nathan fussed briefly over JD who, other than having a bruised shoulder from hitting the inside of the trunk when the car fishtailed out of control appeared to be fine. Buck outlined the events in Purgatorio and Josiah updated them on the little they uncovered at the ranch.
After listening to the short reports, Judge Travis spoke up, "I persuaded the warden at Englewood to transmit their security tapes to us for the time in question. JD "
The others grinned as their youngest bounded up from the conference table and went to the bank of computers he often used for the more technical work he was called upon to complete. Booting up the system he settled in his chair and quickly went through the various passwords and firewalls established to protect the system. Judge Travis came up behind him with the other members. JD shot an inquiring look and Travis wordlessly pointed to a file that was sitting in the Team's secure account.
JD opened the file and began streaming the various video feeds. On the screen they saw Chris walking with another man into the facility. On another file they saw him at the inside desk speaking with the guard and on yet another file they saw him take custody of the prisoner and then exit the building. There was no audio with the file so they couldn't make out any words but Chris' body language was easy enough to read for the team who knew him so well. Outwardly he appeared controlled and authoritative which indeed he was, to the team who knew him well he was tense, angry and worried.
JD froze one of the images and within moments a printer whirred to life and a picture of the man next to Chris appeared on paper. Buck grabbed it up and studied it closely.
"Josiah, I've sent the same image of him to your computer."
"Thanks, JD, I'll see if I can find out who he is." Josiah left the others and headed to his desk to begin his search on the unknown man who accompanied their leader so brazenly in and out of the federal penitentiary.
"What was the name of the man that Chris and this...whoever he is spirited out of Englewood?" Buck stepped back from the computers and looked at Judge Travis for his response.
"Mario Saldagna, he was given a flat bid of 15 years for conspiracy to deal drugs. You'll find a file on your email account listing his record both outside the prison system as well as since he was incarcerated. Figured you'd want to start working out who would want him out of there."
Buck nodded his thanks and headed for his desk to begin learning everything he could about Mario Saldagna.
"JD, why don't you give me the plate numbers off the car that Chris drove in, I'll get the DMV records and see who owns it or rented it or anything about it. I'll also issue a BOLO on it."
Wordlessly JD nodded and a few key strokes later, the printer whirred to life again and Nathan snatched up the paper and headed off on his own task.
JD looked at the Judge once and then focused back on the computer images, "I'm going to go through these camera angles one at a time and make a detailed outline of the time they arrived, how long they were inside the facility as well as check all angles to see if Chris made any indications to the cameras trying to send us a message, anything that can help."
With that the young agent bent to his task completely engrossed in his work.
Judge Travis smiled and stepped away. Turning he looked at all the agents and found them similarly involved. He decided his best course of action would be to leave them to their investigation while he embarked on his own; tracking down the judge who issued the order freeing Saldagna.
The sudden movement of the van taking a turn a little too quickly sent Ezra tumbling from one side of the van to the other only to stop as he impacted another body. The involuntary sound he made as he was jostled was barely more than a breathy rasp which grated painfully across his bruised vocal chords. He lay still for a moment gathering his senses until he remembered where he was and who he was with. Realizing he was laying nearly on another body he quickly opened he eyes and took in the battered form of Vin who, like himself, was regaining consciousness.
"Ez, I like you well enough but do you think you could move a bit," Vin stopped to bite back the moan that was threatening to escape his lips. Catching his breath through slow shallow breaths he finished his request, "you're kind laying on my bruised ribs."
Quickly Ezra shifted his body off of Vin and then stopped amazed. Vin had known it was him, did that mean his vision had returned? He opened his mouth to speak and again all that came out was a rasping sound and the effort sent a sharp pain the length of his throat and started him coughing.
"Ez, Ez, is what's wrong." Vin reached out unseeingly and moved his hands until they came in contact with the smooth feel of Ezra's sweater. He knew the feel of that fabric, soft and smooth as opposed to Chris' rougher denim shirts or Buck's cheap Hawaiian type shirts that felt more like cardboard than cotton.
The sound of Ezra's cough followed by a rasping sound that was akin to a moan/screech worried Vin and he pushed himself up thankful that although his hands were bound at least they were bound in front of him. He bit back the cry of pain his movement caused and continued to reach out to Ezra who grabbed his hands and brought them to his throat.
Vin felt the bruise at Ezra's throat and pieced the clues together. Someone had delivered a particularly nasty hit to his friend's voice box. Vin knew that such a hit could be lethal and he was relieved that Ezra seemed to be all right...well, at least he was breathing. Vin reached up to touch Ezra's face to see if he was hurt in any other ways only to have his hands pushed away.
**Really, Mr. Tanner, such forwardness on your part, I am not to be fondled. One would think I was trapped in this loathsome situation with Mr. Wilmington, however, the existence of your long tresses persuades me otherwise. Still, unhand me.**
Vin, of course, heard none of Ezra's inward rant and only knew his hands were pushed away. Groaning a bit as he eased his body into a sitting position he turned to look in the direction he knew Ezra to be and spoke, "Well, this is a fine mess, Ez, me with no eyes you with no voice."
Sparing a wry grin at the observation Ezra decided to alert Vin to the presence of their other fallen comrade, Chris. Reaching forward Ezra grabbed Vin's bound hands and guided them to the left and down. Once Vin's hands touched the fabric of Chris' jacket he sat back and watched as realization dawned on Vin simply by the feel of the jacket who was with them.
Ezra nodded and then remembered that Vin couldn't see him. He decided to try another method he tapped Vin's shoulder two times.
"What's that? All right, you're trying to tell me something. Let's see, two taps means 'yes'."
Ezra tapped his shoulder twice.
Vin decided to proof him. "Okay. This is to test if I understand you correctly. Two times means yes." Vin paused and took a shallow breath trying to ease the relentless pain in his chest and back, "so that means if I ask you if my name is Vin, your answer will be " Vin didn't have long to wait for the two taps on his shoulder to confirm his thoughts.
"So that means one tap means no." Two taps quickly followed. "Okay, Ez, is there any other members of the team with us?" One tap.
"Great, now, come on, Chris, join in the fun." Vin put his hand back out to Chris and gently shook his shoulder. He winced at the effort of shaking Chris' shoulder. His reward was when he felt Chris stir and then heard a low moan.
"Hey, Cowboy." .
Chris forced his eyes open against the exhaustion he felt. Looking up he saw Vin and Ezra with him. He heard a loud sound in his ears a combination of a roar and a buzz that was distinctly uncomfortable.
Looking at Vin he realized that he didn't look any better than the last time he saw him. He tried to remember where he was and squeezed his eyes shut again as his head was assaulted by another round of stabbing pain.
He felt worried hands on him and looked up to see Ezra leaning over him concern written on his face and his eyes shifted back to Vin and saw the sharpshooter's lips moving as if he was talking to him.
Chris blinked several times trying to clear his vision only to realize that indeed Vin's lips were moving but he couldn't hear anything that he was saying. He reached up to rub at his ears and discovered that his hands were bound. Undeterred he rubbed at one ear and then the other wincing as he contacted his left ear and felt a burn mark on his skin and, when he withdrew his hand, he saw there was blood on it. He shook his head trying to clear away the annoying buzzing/roaring sound and immediately regretted the action as his vision began to darken and his stomach rolled with the dizziness and nausea that accompanied the movement.
He closed his eyes and held his head for a few moments taking deep breaths until his stomach settled and the roar in his ears lost the pounding that had accompanied it. He felt hands on him again and when he looked he still saw Vin's lips moving but heard nothing.
Vin couldn't tell what was happening to Chris but Ezra figured out rather quickly as he saw Chris rub at his ears and look confusedly back and forth. Once Chris attempted to speak, however, Vin was able to figure it out pretty fast.
"What the hell is happening!!?"
Chris watched amazed as both Vin and Ezra seemed to rock back as he blasted them. He could feel within his own body that he had shouted but in actuality he couldn't hear a thing. The reaction from Ezra was immediate as he clamped his hand over his mouth and waved frantically at him trying to tell him to calm down.
"Ezra, what's wrong, why is Chris shouting?" Vin, of course, could see none of this and while he knew Ezra couldn't speak to him he figured they'd find a way to communicate. Sure enough Ezra took his hand and placed it on Chris' ear and then moved his hand to his own throat and finally to Vin's eyes, realization set in quickly.
"Aw, hell, this has got to be some kind of a joke." For an answer Vin's hands were placed on Ezra's head and then Ezra shook it violently side to side.
"Yeah, yeah, Ez, I already got that. Great, Monkey no see, Monkey no speak, Monkey no hear. Very funny. Fantastic."
Chris watched all this and began to realize what was going on as well as he realized that while he could see Vin's lips moving he never saw Ezra's move and reached the same conclusion as Vin had when he followed Ezra's movement of Vin's hands to his own ears, Ezra's throat and finally to Vin's eyes.
While the three members of the Mag 7 were coming to grips with their injuries their three abductors were arguing up front.
Mario was angry that he had been incarcerated and really wanted to make someone pay and he didn't understand why they didn't just kill the three men in the back and be done with it.
"Easy, Mario, take it easy."
"Don't tell me to take it easy. Who the hell do you think you are? Just because you're a hot shot in the Miami organization doesn't mean squat to me. My family and I own Denver."
"Your brother always said you were a hot head. Why he wanted you broke out is beyond me, sure as hell isn't for your smarts."
That did it for Mario, he was tired of being insulted and tired of being condescended to. He was still feeling the high of being busted out of prison and having killed a man and he was itching for a fight. His hot head though was a problem because Mario would take on all comers regardless of whether he held the upper hand or if it was prudent to do so. Since it was the driver of the van who insulted him just now he decided to take out the driver. Once again he used the gun only this time instead of firing, for whatever reason he decided to club the guy over the head with it. The effect was immediate and no less deadly as the man slumped forward only this time instead of his foot slipping off the accelerator it pushed down harder causing the van to lurch forward and with no one steering it it quickly veered off the road, sideswiped a couple of small trees which slowed it dramatically and tipped on its side before coming to rest.