Vin and JD drove along the deserted highway heading for Chris's ranch. Buck and Chris were away at a conference and Vin offered to house sit. Vin reasoned someone had to take care of the horses so he might as well stay at the house. JD thought that was a great idea and asked if he could stay also. Chris agreed but with one warning. Everything was to be exactly as when he left. Vin told him not to worry. Chris shook his head at that remark but he even trusted Vin to drive his truck.
It was Friday and Vin and JD were headed back to the ranch after spending the evening with the others. Ezra had cleaned them out at poker as usual. They didn't realize how late it was until Inez handed Ezra the keys and told him to lock up. It wasn't the first time the seven had remained to close the saloon. Inez trusted they would clean up before they left. Around one in the morning Vin had called it quits since him and JD had to pick Chris and Buck up later Saturday afternoon. They needed the whole day to get everything back in order. Vin was watching the road when JD asked him something.
"Think we can get it all done?"
"Yeah easy," Vin said. "Ain't so bad."
"Not so bad," JD said shocked. "How are you going to explain the hole in the screen for the sliding glass door?"
"Can't just tell him you fell trough it now can I?" Vin laughed.
"If you had thrown the football better I wouldn't have fallen through it in the first place," JD complained.
"Don't worry," Vin assured him. "I bought extra screen and a repair kit during lunch."
JD relaxed and began to doze off. They had and hour drive out to the ranch and JD was beat. He wasn't sure how long he was asleep when he heard sirens. When he looked in the side mirror he saw a patrol car was following them. Vin pulled the truck to the side to let the car pass. The patrol car moved to the side with them and that's when Vin realized the cop was pulling him over.
"Where you speeding?" JD asked Vin as he stopped the truck and put it in park.
"Nope," Vin answered as he put his hands in sight on the steering wheel.
JD watched in the mirror as a state trooper got out on the passenger's side and walk along the truck. Another officer was walking up to the driver's door. Vin carefully rolled down the window.
"Is there a problem officer?" Vin asked.
"Can I see your license?" he said.
Vin reached in his pocket for his wallet. Vin opened the wallet and made sure the officer saw his badge. Vin took out his license and handed it to the trooper.
"Well if it isn't my friend Agent Tanner," the officer sneered.
Vin took a closer look and realized who it was. It was Officer Burke from highway patrol. He and Chris had a run in with Burke and his partner at the saloon. They were drunk and bothering some of the patrons as well as the waitresses. It was late and Inez asked them for help. Chris escorted Burke's partner to the door and threw him out. Burke took a swing at Vin but missed and fell to the floor. Vin hauled him to his feet and he soon followed his friend out the door. Burke swore he would get even and Vin had a bad feeling.
"What's the problem Burke?" Vin asked.
"I'm the one asking questions here," Burke said angrily. "Officer Miller go run a check on the tags for this fancy rig."
"Right Sarge," the young rookie said and walked back to the car.
"Look, Burke, you know this truck belongs to Chris," Vin said. "Why'd you pull us over in the first place?"
"Taillights out," Burke smiled. "Wanted to give the rookie some practice."
"Um Sarge," Miller said. "There's a problem."
"What is it?" he asked.
"Dispatch says the licensee plates from a Hertz rental car reported stolen," Miller answered.
"Well, well," Burke smiled evilly. "You gentlemen want to step out of the car."
Vin looked at JD and gave him a look as if to say 'just do what he wants'. JD nodded and slid across the bench sit and out the driver's side. Burke asked to see the registration and Vin told him it was in the glove box. Burke told the rookie to get it while he watched the suspects. Vin handed Burke the keys and told him the box was locked. Burke then handed the keys to Miller and he walked around to the passenger side. Vin leaned against the truck and shook his head. JD could sense the hatred from the sergeant but didn't know why.
"Vin, you know him?" JD asked.
"Yeah," Vin replied. "Me and Chris threw Burke and his partner out of Inez's one night. They were drunk and causing trouble."
"Sarge I couldn't find any registration," Miller said. "But I did find this." Miller held up a pistol.
"No wonder it was locked," Burke sneered as he took hold of the pen the rookie had used to pick up the gun. The pistol dangled from the trigger guard on the pen. "You got a permit for this?"
"No," Vin admitted. He'd forgotten it was in there. "It's Agent Larabee's."
"Miller go get an evidence bag," Burke said.
"Uh sure, Sarge," Miller said.
"Burke, don't be a dick," Vin declared.
Vin was taken by complete surprise when Burke backhanded him across the mouth. "Don't sass me boy!" Burke yelled.
"Jesus!" JD exclaimed as he grabbed Vin. "You alright?"
"Yeah I'm fine," Vin said as he leaned over and spit blood out of his mouth.
"Here ya go," Miller said as he nervously handed the bag to Burke.
"Miller I want you to call for back up," Burke said. " These two seem to be giving us trouble."
"All right," he said and went back to the patrol car.
Vin watched Burke carefully as he put the gun in the bag. When he was finished Vin saw him pull out his nightstick. He knew Burke had a beef with him and didn't want JD getting hurt.
"Look, Burke," Vin began. "I know you want to get your kicks with me just leave JD out of it."
Burke viciously jabbed the nightstick into Vin's side. Vin dropped to his knees gasping for breath. JD knelt next to him and grabbed his shoulders.
"Vin!" JD yelled. "Are you OK?"
"Yeah," Vin grunted.
"What the hell do you think you're doing!" JD exploded yelling at Burke. "You could have broken some ribs!"
"You giving me lip, son?" Burke asked as he slapped his palm with the nightstick.
"Leave him outta dis," Vin lisped from the cut on his lip from the punch.
Burke stepped away with a smile. Vin stood up with JD's help. Miller watched from the patrol car but didn't say anything. He'd only been on the job four days and wasn't' sure what to do. Ten minutes later another patrol car pulled up. The officer got out of the car and strolled over to Burke. When Vin saw whom it was he knew they were in trouble.
"JD listen to me," Vin said as he grabbed his shoulder. "We might be in trouble."
"But they're law enforcement officers," JD said not wanting to believe it.
"Don't matter," Vin said. "This ain't about enforcing no laws. It's about revenge. That officer that just pulled up he's the other one me and Chris's kicked out of Inez's."
"Shit!" JD cursed. "What do we do?"
"Just do what they say," Vin said. "If they decide to arrest us we're gonna end up taking a ride to the station. Someone there will recognizes us an probably call the others. Just keep your wits and don't do anything to provoke them."
"Buck and Chris are gonna be pissed," JD smiled. "They told us to stay out of trouble."
"We can take care of ourselves," Vin replied. He hoped he was right
The two older officers walked over to them followed by the rookie. Vin could see the young officer didn't know what to do. He hoped the rookie didn't do anything stupid. Vin looked at the nametag of Burke's partner. The tag said 'Delta' and Vin shook his head chuckling.
"Find something amusing, Tanner?" Officer Delta asked.
"Nothing," Vin said. "If you just let me get the registration we can finish this."
Vin went to lean in the truck when he felt a nightstick slam across his kidneys. Vin screamed and fell to the ground. He curled into a ball as Burke continued to beat his back and sides but never his face. Vin knew Burke didn't want to hit Vin anywhere where it might show. As the blows continued to fall Vin knew they were in serious trouble. He hoped JD didn't do anything stupid as he finally passed out from the pain.
"What the hell do you think you're doing!" JD yelled as he tried to help Vin.
JD never made it to Vin's side. Officer Delta grabbed his right wrist and viciously twisted his arm behind his back. JD was off balance as the larger officer grabbed his collar and slammed him against the truck. JD's gasped for breath as the wind was knocked out of him. As he gulped in air he felt the sting of the metal cuffs as they bit into his wrists.
"The two of you are under arrest," Delta said.
"On what charges?" JD demanded when he finally found his voice.
"Resisting arrest, assault on an officer," Delta said as he turned JD around.
"They'll never stick," JD said definitely.
"They don't have to," Burke said next to Vin.
JD watched as Burke flipped Vin's unconscious body to his stomach. Burke pulled Vin's limp arms behind his back and cuffed his wrists. When he was done he stood up and pushed Vin to his back with his foot. JD tried to find some sign that Vin was playing possum. He knew Vin was a black belt in karate and that if he wanted he could kick these older guys asses. When JD realized Vin was truly out of the picture he bit his lip knowing he was their only hope. Maybe he could reason with them?
"OK, fellas, you've had your fun," JD said. "If you take us to the precinct people will recognize us."
"He's right," Miller cautiously added. JD glanced at him thinking he had a potential allie. He was wrong when he saw Miller cringe as Burke came closer.
"Don't worry, Miller, there are plenty of places to hide people down at the station," Burke smiled. "Besides I haven't finished with my fun."
"The others will come looking when we don't show up for breakfast at Ezra's tomorrow," JD lied.
"Nice try, boy," Delta smirked. "It's Saturday and that fancy dressed pimp doesn't get up before noon."
Damn! JD thought why didn't I say Nathan or Josiah and how do these guys know Ezra doesn't get up before noon? JD didn't know what to do now. He couldn't think of a way to get them out of this. He knew Vin must be hurt pretty bad since he hadn't moved. JD's frustration finally got the better of him and he head butt Delta in the stomach with all his might. If they were going to be arrested for assaulting an officer JD figured it might as well be true. JD had the satisfaction of hearing the air whoosh out of Delta's lungs as they both crashed to the ground in a tangle of limbs. His victory was short lived when he was pulled up by the handcuffs around his wrists. JD cried out as the metal tightened biting into his flesh.
"Not a smart thing to do, punk," Burke said as he threw JD against the truck.
Delta stood up and glared at JD. JD knew he was in trouble as the officer walked towards him. He knew Vin had told him not to provoke them but he couldn't help it. When Delta was closer JD could see the anger in his eyes. JD tensed expecting the officer to punch him in the gut and back like they did to Vin. He wasn't prepared for the hammering blow to his right temple as the world went black.
+ + + + + + +
Chris would be glad to get home. He hated going to these week long conferences. Usually the instructors were some paper pushing desk jockeys who had no field experience. Chris usually made it a habit of sitting in a dark corner, so he could sleep, but not this time. A petty red head at the conference had snagged Buck's eye and he insisted they sit with her. Unfortunately she liked to sit up front and Chris was forced to look interested. This lasted two days when Chris declared Buck was on his own.
"Hope those two are waiting for us when we land," Buck said from the seat next to him.
"Vin knows when the plane comes in," Chris assured him.
"Yeah but you know those two," Buck grinned. "If something caught their attention on TV they'll forget."
"They'll be there," Chris said and Buck laughed at the implied 'or else'.
The 'fasten seat belt' light came on as the captain informed them he was making his final approach. The flight attendants made their last round picking up stray cups and trash. Chris shook his head as Buck handed the brunette his glass with a wink. She smiled at Buck as she took the glass and continued on her way.
"One of these days you're gonna get slapped," Chris predicted.
"Been slapped plenty," Buck laughed.
Chris sighed. Buck was his oldest friend and the ladies man hadn't changed in years. Buck was always chasing the women and a number of them had been willing to be caught. Chris knew Buck had the greatest respect and admiration for the opposite sex. Chris remembered a few times when Buck even charmed Sarah into doing things. Chris smiled as the memories of his dead wife and son no longer pained him. For the longest time he could only remember the bad but with the help of the team he was starting to remember more of the good.
The plane landed safely and Chris waited impatiently as they taxied to the terminal. After what seemed like an eternity the plane came to a stop and all the passengers jumped up as one when the seat belt light was turned off. Chris watched as they all jockeyed for position and pushed their way off the plane. Buck and Chris waited for everyone to leave before they got up. They weren't in a hurry and Chris hated dealing with the crowds. Chris walked towards the door and the waiting flight attendants.
"Have a good evening," the brunette said.
"Thanks," Chris said as he walked off the plane.
When he realized Buck wasn't right behind him he turned to see him talking with the brunette. Chris looked to the heavens for patience and walked back to Buck. He grabbed the mustached agent by the collar and pulled him away but not before she slipped Buck a piece of paper.
"Call me," she yelled.
"Don't worry, darlin', I will," Buck yelled back.
"You're really something."
"I'm one of a kind," Buck laughed as he walked beside Chris.
They got to the baggage claim and easily found their luggage on the nearly empty conveyor. Once they had their luggage they walked out to the designated meeting spot. Chris wasn't happy to see his truck wasn't there.
"I told ya," Buck laughed.
"I'll kill them," Chris growled as he grabbed his cell phone.
Chris dialed the ranch but got the answering machine. Next was Buck's apartment and after a few minutes the machine picked up there also. Chris left an angry message then hung up.
"Not getting any answer from their cells either," Buck said as he put his phone away.
Chris reined in his legendary temper as he called the others to discover Josiah and Nathan weren't home. Chris was ready to spit nails when Ezra finally picked up his phone.
"Where the hell are they?"
"Welcome home Mr. Larabee," Ezra said calmly. "I assume you are referring to Agents Tanner and Dunne."
"No, Laurel and Hardy," Chris snapped. "They were supposed to pick us up."
"I am aware of that," Ezra said. "I'm guessing from your demeanor they aren't there."
"You got that right," Chris growled.
"I shall be there in half an hour," Ezra assured him then hung up.
"I'm gonna kill them," Chris said as he marched back inside the building.
Buck followed his irate boss. He shook his head and hoped the Kid and Junior had a good excuse for not being there.
+ + + + + + +
JD couldn't remember when he hurt so much. He'd come to earlier to find himself tied to a chair in a room with a bunch of pipes. Over head was a single bare light bulb that barely lit the windowless room. JD wasn't sure how long he'd been down there or whether it was morning or not. JD sighed and regretted it when his ribs protested. He didn't think they were broken but they sure did hurt. JD tried to wiggle his numb finger and gasped in pain as he did. His finger felt like sausages and JD knew they were swollen from the lack of circulation from the too tight cuffs. The dark haired agent wasn't sure what to do and began to take stock of the room again. He'd done this already twice but maybe he missed something. The door was about three feet in front of him with a dead bolt. JD didn't have to try the dead bolt to know it was locked from the outside. Again he looked around for something he could use to cut the ropes around his legs. If he was free from the chair maybe he could get his hands from behind his back. He'd seen a guy do it on TV and figured he could do it also. The search was fruitless and JD sighed in defeat. He was glad they hadn't left him in the dark.
+ + + + + + +
Vin hadn't been so lucky. When he regained consciousness Vin wasn't sure if his eyes were opened or not. He turned his head and instantly regretted it when the room began to swim. Once his head stopped spinning Vin noticed the room wasn't completely dark. A shaft of light was coming through under what he assumed to be a door. Vin sat quietly and tried to take stock of his injuries. His arms felt like lead weights and they hurt from the awkward position they were tied behind his back. Vin tried to relieve the numbness by trying to rotate his shoulders. He screamed as his left shoulder wouldn't obey and Vin knew it was dislocated. He moved the wrist on his right hand and felt the metal cuff cut into the skin around his wrist. Vin cursed himself for a fool and wondered where JD was. He could only guess Delta and Burke had them at the precinct. The one they were assigned to was and older building. Vin knew there were at least a dozen rooms they could be stashed in and no one would ever know. He hoped JD was OK.
Ezra was good to his word and picked them up in half an hour. The sporty Jaguar wasn't made for anyone big to sit in the rear seats. Chris, being the smallest, was forced to take the back. Ezra offered to drop Buck at his apartment but Buck refused. He figured JD probably had the pick up out at Chris's. Ezra inquired about the conference as he pulled into traffic on the interstate. Buck answered Ezra's questions while Chris brooded in the back. As Ezra pulled off the exit that would take them to the ranch the summer sun was beginning to set. Ezra pulled into Chris's drive twenty minutes later and they noticed Buck's truck parked out front. There was no sign of Chris's black Ram.
"I bet they're headed for the airport," Buck chuckled. "Maybe I should call them."
"No," Chris said. "Let 's not make this easy for them."
Buck smiled and put his phone back in his pocket. They got out of the Jag and opened the trunk so they could get their luggage. Buck threw his in the truck then followed the others to the house. Chris unlocked the door and walked inside. He flipped on the lights and stood staring at the chaos in front of him.
"It would appear Agents Tanner and Dunne are up the proverbial creek without a paddle," Ezra commented.
"Or the damned canoe," Buck laughed. "Those boys are in for it now."
Chris walked into the living room and dropped his bag by the couch. He surveyed the room and saw beer cans and soda cans covering every available table space. Four empty pizza boxes sat on the coffee table along with empty pretzel and potato chip bags.
"Oh boy," Buck said from over by the sliding glass door.
"What?" Chris demanded as he walked towards Buck.
"Now look, Chris, don't get all riled up," Buck said as he stepped away from the door.
When Buck moved it was hard not to miss the gapping hole in the screen. Chris moved closer and saw it was about JD's height. Chris slowly counted to ten when Ezra cleared his throat to get his attention.
"What!" Chris growled.
"You might wish to prepare yourself before coming into the kitchen," Ezra suggested.
Chris pushed passed his undercover agent and into the kitchen. Dishes were piled in the sink as well as the dishwasher. Chris looked in the fridge and found it empty. He was getting a bad feeling about this. Vin watched the house before and it was always spotless when Chris got home. Chris was checking the cabinets when he heard one of the horses begin to kick his stall. The kicking continued for a few minutes then stopped. Chris knew his horse, Pony, only kicked the stall when he wanted to be fed. He walked out the door and headed for the barn. Buck and Ezra followed wondering what he was doing. Chris stepped into the barn and all the horses began to whinny and rumble a greeting. He continued to the tack room to find each of the horse's food measured out and waiting.
"Hey, pard, what's up?" Buck asked
"Something's wrong," Chris said. "Vin might leave the house looking a mess but he'd never forget to feed the horses."
"How do you know he didn't?" Ezra asked.
"Vin has a habit of getting the food ready for the evening after feeding them in the morning," Chris explained. "The food is still sitting in the tack room."
Buck glanced in the room to see each of the horse's food buckets sitting in front of three flakes of hay. Buck looked into Peso's stall and saw it hadn't been cleaned. He also noticed the water bucket was empty. The big black nudged Buck wanting his food.
"You're right something is wrong," Buck agreed as he got Peso's food and dumped it in the bin. "Peso's stall is filthy and he has no water. That ain't like Vin."
"Where do you suppose they are?" Ezra asked.
"Don't know," Chris admitted as he helped Buck feed and water the horses. "But let's find out. Call Nathan and Josiah."
Ezra pulled out his cell phone as Buck and Chris finished with the horses. When they were done they all headed back to the house. As they walked up the path Ezra finished his call with Josiah.
"Mr. Sanchez hasn't heard from either of them since last night," Ezra said. "He's going to check with Inez and a few other places they like to eat."
"Good," Chris said. "Buck start with the hospitals while I call Nathan."
Buck nodded and moved away to start calling the local hospitals. Chris picked up the phone in the kitchen and called Nathan.
"Hello," said a familiar female voice.
"Hello, Rain, is Nathan there?"
"Sure, Chris, hold on a minute," there was a pause then Nathan answered. "Yeah, Chris."
"Have you heard from Vin or JD?"
"I haven't seen them since last night, why?"
"They never came to pick us up," Chris replied. "Finally had to call Ezra. When we got back to the ranch it was a disaster."
"That's odd. Vin said they were going to spend the day cleaning up," Nathan commented.
"I figured as much," Chris said.
"What do you want me to do?" Nathan asked in concern.
"Enjoy your evening with Rain," Chris said. "I'll keep in touch."
Chris hung up the phone to find Ezra with a garbage bag picking up the living room. Buck was sitting at the dinning room table still on the phone.
"No luck with Mr. Jackson?" Ezra asked as he dumped the pizza boxes in the bag.
"He hasn't seen them either," Chris said as he helped Ezra.
"I took the liberty of ordering Chinese," Ezra said. "It should be here in twenty minutes."
"Thanks, Ezra," Chris said. "I'm going to call the police and report the Ram missing."
"Is that wise?" Ezra asked with a smile. "If you report it stolen and our wayward friends are out driving and forgot the time they might get arrested."
"I'm counting on it," Chris said with a wicked laugh.
"Remind me never to make you angry," Ezra laughed with him and continued to clean up.
+ + + + + + +
JD didn't realize he'd dozed off until he heard a key turning in the door. He quickly sat up and waited to see who would enter. JD was surprised when the rookie, Miller, ducked in and quickly closed the door. He turned to JD with a frightened look then quickly moved towards him.
"I'm sorry," Miller said.
"Then untie me," JD demanded.
"I can't," he protested. "They said they'd hurt my wife. She's pregnant."
"I understand," JD sighed.
"I've only been on the job four days," Miller continued nervously. "Always thought the movies exaggerated the bad cops. I never expected this."
"You're not the only one," JD said. "Do you know where my friend is and what time it is?"
"No," Miller admitted. "Burke carried your friend in. I helped with you. We work the midnight to eight shift. It's about two o'clock."
"What's your name?" JD asked.
"Cal," the young rookie answered.
"Look, Cal, I'm JD and you already know I'm an ATF agent," JD explained. "What they're doing is a federal offence and you could be held as an accomplice."
"Don't you think I know that!" Cal said angrily. "What can I do?"
"Call my boss, Chris Larabee, he'll know what to do," JD reasoned.
"I can't," Cal said regretfully. "I gotta go."
"No wait," JD called but Cal ignored him and slipped out the door.
JD didn't blame him as he heard the door being locked. He knew the kid was afraid. There was not telling what Delta and Burke would do if Cal helped them. The names of the two officers made JD smile despite of the situation. JD wasn't worried for himself but for Vin. The sharpshooter was unconscious when they brought him here twenty -four hours ago. JD was worried Vin might have a concussion. He knew he couldn't rely on Call for help. If only he could figure a way out. He tried his bonds again even though he knew it was futile. After struggling for a few minutes JD slumped against the ropes and hoped Vin was having better luck.
+ + + + + + +
Vin's luck had run out. After Vin had been in the room for a few hours the rats got bold and came out of hiding. He knew they were being drawn to the smell of blood. Vin tried to free his right hand but only succeeded in cutting his wrist on the too tight metal handcuffs. Vin tried to get comfortable in the chair and ignore his visitors. He moved wrong and gritted his teeth as pain shot along his arm from his dislocated left shoulder. As the pain subsided Vin heard a key being inserted into the lock on the door. He quickly shut his eyes so he wouldn't be blinded when they turned on the lights. He listened as the lock turned and the door was opened. Whoever walked in switched on the lights and closed the door.
"Well, Tom, looks like pretty boy is awake," Officer Delta said.
"Looks like I win the bet, John," Burke said. "I thought I hit him harder."
"Well you can always try again," John laughed.
While they were talking Vin slowly opened his eyes so they could adjust to the light. John noticed and grabbed Vin's hair and pulled his head back. Vin opened his eyes and glared at the older man.
"Still defiant, huh punk?" John asked and grabbed Vin's left shoulder.
Vin gritted his teeth and tried to ignore the pain. When Tom realized Vin wasn't going to give them the satisfaction of crying out he told John to let go. Vin's head slumped forward on his chest as he tried to catch his breath. This only hurt more as his bruised ribs protested the abuse.
"What's the matter, pretty boy, cat got you're tongue?" Tom asked.
"Chris'll find us," Vin growled. "And when he does you better not be anywhere around."
"Why, he gonna kill me?" Tom laughed. Vin kept silent and glared at Tom. "You little punk."
Vin's defiance so enraged Burke he no longer limited his blows to Vin's upper body. He viciously sent his right fist crashing into Vin's jaw. The next few minutes were filled with agony as the two officers pummeled Vin. As quickly as they came they were gone. For a minute Vin thought he had dreamed the whole thing until he tried to sit up. The pain was excruciating and he slumped against the rope. Vin tried to lick his lips but when he went to open his mouth he saw stars and knew his jaw was broken.
"Hurry Chrith," Vin lisped as unconsciousness took him.
It was early Sunday morning and Ezra was up making breakfast. Normally the dapper undercover agent wouldn't arise before noon but today was different. Last nights search for their missing friends had been fruitless. Josiah showed up at the ranch around midnight without finding any trace of Vin or JD. Nathan called every few hours to find out what was going on. Chris told him to quit worrying and enjoy his evening with Rain. Besides Chris and Buck were worrying enough for all of them. It was decided they would take different shifts manning the phones while the others slept. They drew cards to see what shifts they would get. Unfortunately Ezra's luck ran out and he drew the early morning slot. Ezra finished putting the coffee on when he heard a car pull up the driveway. He went into the living room and headed for the front door. He stepped out onto the porch as Rain emerged from Nathan's jeep. Nathan climbed out of the driver's seat a moment behind her.
"Any word?" she asked as she walked towards Ezra.
"Nothing at this time," Ezra said giving her a kiss on the cheek in greeting. "Mr. Jackson what are you doing here?"
"I made him come," Rain replied. "He was going crazy waiting for word and to tell the truth so was I."
"Come inside," Ezra said as he opened the door. "I will have breakfast ready in no time."
They followed Ezra into the kitchen and he played the perfect host. He poured Rain a cup of coffee and handed it to her. Nathan stood by the counter and helped himself.
"How would you like your omelets?' Ezra asked. "I have some cheese, ham and diced tomatoes and peppers."
"I didn't know you could cook, Ezra," Rain commented.
"Neither did I," Nathan added.
"I picked it up here and there," he said with a smile.
They told Ezra what they wanted and he busily prepared the omelets. While he was cooking Chris walked into the kitchen.
"Nathan, what are you doing here?" Chris asked.
"He was driving me crazy," Rain answered. "I made him come."
"There's no word from either of them?" Nathan asked.
"No, nothing," Chris said walking over to the coffeepot. "Thought for sure they were out joy riding and would be stopped by the police in the Ram."
"Why would the police stop them?" Rain asked confused as Ezra placed an omelet in front of her.
"Cause, darlin', Chris reported it stolen," Buck said as he came in and gave her a kiss on the cheek.
"You didn't!" she exclaimed.
"Thought it was a good idea at the time," Chris grumbled. "But it didn't work and we still don't know where they are."
"Don't worry, Chris, something will turn up," Josiah assured him as he joined the others in the kitchen.
Ezra made omelets for all of them then joined them at the table. Josiah had a pad of paper and they marked off the places they'd all ready checked for Vin and JD. After that they made another list of places they could be. When they couldn't think of any more places they decided to split the list so they could cover more ground. Vin and JD had been missing for over twenty-four hours now and they were all starting to worry. The two youngest wouldn't be out playing around this long without contacting one of them.
"It's ten o'clock," Chris said as he glanced at the clock on the wall. "Well check in at two o'clock."
They all agreed and were about to leave when the phone rang. Chris answered it as the others waited patiently. Chris gave minimal answered to whoever was on the line then hung up. He turned to others and they knew something was wrong.
"They found the Ram," he announced.
+ + + + + + +
Buck turned the pick up down a dark alley heading for the warehouses. The area was run down and many of the buildings were abandoned. When Chris got the call that the police had found his truck they all piled into two vehicles and head for the scene. Buck and Chris were in his pick up. The others followed in Nathan's Jeep. Buck turned out of the alley and saw police cars ahead. Chris's black ram sat between the patrol vehicles. Buck pulled up to the police cars and cut the engine. Chris got out and approached one of the officers.
"Who's in charge?" Chris asked.
"That would be me, Sergeant Ian Miclin at you service," said an older police officer.
"I'm Agent Larabee," Chris said shaking Ian's hand.
"Ah the owner of the truck," the sergeant said.
"Find anything?" Chris asked as he moved towards the Ram.
"About what you would expect for this neighborhood," Miclin replied as he followed Chris. "Side windows are smashed and the radio is missing."
Chris moved to inspect the truck. Buck and the others went with him. Nathan had Rain wait by the Jeep. She had insisted on coming saying that she was worried for Vin and JD also. Chris walked to the passenger door and peered inside. Wires were hanging from the empty space were the radio should be. Chris was surprised there wasn't more damage. He noticed the glove box was empty and walked back to the sergeant.
"Just thought you should know there was a 9mm in the glove box," Chris said.
"Damn," Ian said. "Can you give us all the information on the gun?"
Chris pulled out his wallet and looked for the permit. He took it out and handed it to the sergeant. Miclin handed the permit to another officer who started to write down the information.
"I take it there is nothing in the truck indicating the whereabouts of Agents Tanner and Dunne," Ezra guessed.
"Nothing that I could see," Chris said.
"The truck was completely empty when we found it," Miclin said. "No papers or anything."
"I see the forensic team is going over the truck now," Josiah commented. "Don't they usually wait until its back at police head quarters?"
"Usually but when the captain found out the truck belong to a federal agent he figured you'd want some answers fast," he explained. "So far all they've found are some prints."
"This doesn't help very much," Buck observed. "Chris we're gonna have to let AD Travis know what's going on and that maybe Vin and JD have been kidnapped."
Chris was about to reply when one of the forensic team called to the sergeant. They all walked over to the driver's side of the truck.
"I'm not sure, sergeant, but I think I've found blood here on the truck," he said.
"Shit!" Chris cursed getting a bad feeling. "Ezra call it in. Tell the division we've got two missing agents. Since we are assuming this is a kidnapping the FBI will have to handle it."
"No way Chris!" Buck said. "Those FBI goons couldn't find their own mothers! I'm looking for JD."
"We won't have a choice, Buck," Chris snapped.
"God damn it!" Buck cursed and stormed off.
"I'm gonna guess your people are going to want to go over the truck," Miclin said. "I'll have my boys watch it until you can get someone over here to pick it up. I'll let my captain know what's going on."
Chris nodded and watched as the sergeant walked to one of the patrol cars. Ezra was talking on the phone as Nathan told Rain what was going on. Josiah was looking in the truck to see if he could find a clue as he tried not to touch anything. Chris could see Buck over in the alley kicking at a pile of garbage. He knew exactly how Buck felt.
"Chris," Ezra called. "AD Travis is calling together a team. He said to meet at headquarters immediately."
"Right," Chris said. "You and Josiah go with Nathan. Have him drop Rain off at his townhouse then get back to the federal building. I'll get Buck."
Ezra nodded and went to round up Josiah. Chris walked towards Buck and heard him berating himself about thinking JD and Vin had been out having fun.
"Don't heap all the blame on your shoulders," Chris said. "Save some for me."
"Damn it, Chris, what do you think happened to them?"
"I don't know, but I plan on finding out. And I pity the people responsible."
"Me too," Buck said with a feral grin to match Chris's.
+ + + + + + +
In half an hour AD Travis had assembled a FBI team to help in the search for JD and Vin. Chris and the rest of Team 7 arrived at the federal building and headed for the eleventh floor. They walked into the conference room and introductions were made and they got down to business. The head of the FBI team wasn't happy that the two agents' disappearance hadn't been reported earlier. Chris defended his decision about not calling earlier. All the information Josiah, Nathan and Ezra had gathered on the missing agents' hangouts were handed over to the FBI team. Chris wasn't happy about this but Travis said it was a FBI matter. The meeting was in progress for an hour when one of the secretaries interrupted.
"I'm sorry sir, but there's a call for Agent Larabee," she said. "The person on the other line said it was about the missing agents."
"Larabee," Chris said quickly as he grabbed the phone.
"Go to the fourth precinct, your men are there."
"Hello!" Chris yelled into the phone as the person hung up. "Damn!"
"What?" Buck demanded.
"He said to go to the fourth precinct," Chris said. "That we'd find JD and Vin there."
"It's a hoax," said Agent Carson of the FBI.
"No body but the people in this room know Vin and JD are missing," Josiah pointed out.
"Agent Sanchez has a point," Ezra agreed.
"But why the fourth precinct?" Nathan asked. "If they were arrested we'd know about it."
"I don't know," Chris said. "But I aim to find out."
"Chris!" Travis called as Chris stormed towards the door. "You just can't barge into the police station and start looking around."
"Watch me!" Chris snarled and kept walking.
"Don't worry, Judge Travis," Buck said. "The captain down at the fourth is a friend of Chris's. We'll let you know what's going on."
"They can't do this!" Carson protested. "This is now an FBI case."
"Son I suggest not getting into Agent Larabee's way," Travis cautioned. "I realize I called you in for this assignment but Agent Larabee is very protective of his men."
"This is on your head if something goes wrong," Carson warned.
"I'm aware of that," Travis said unfazed by the agents warning. "You boys better catch up with Chris. Make sure he doesn't do anything irrational."
Travis watched as the rest of team 7 followed Chris out the door. He hoped Chris didn't get to out of hand if Vin and JD really were at the police station.
Buck pulled into the parking lot for the fourth precinct. The precinct had jurisdiction over Purgatory and the warehouses. The captain of the fourth was a hard-nosed ex-marine and a friend of Chris's. Chris got out of the truck and headed inside. Buck, Josiah, Nathan and Ezra followed close behind. Chris stopped by the front desk and the sergeant on duty looked up.
"I'd like to see Captain McDermott," Chris said calmly but Buck knew he was ready to explode.
"The captain's busy," the sergeant said. "He left orders not to be disturbed."
"Oh I think you better disturb him," Chris warned. "Or I'll take this place apart."
"Chris," Buck said putting a restraining hand on his arm. "Look, sergeant, the captain is a friend of ours. Why don't you call him and let him know Chris Larabee is here."
The sergeant picked up the phone and called the captain. From the one sided conversation Buck could tell the sergeant would end up offering them an apology. He hung up the phone and looked at Chris.
"I'm sorry Agent Larabee the captain will see you," the sergeant said. "I'll have one of the men show you to his office."
"That won't be necessary," Ezra said as Chris moved quickly down the hall. "I believe he knows the way."
When Chris got to the office he didn't bother to knock and barged inside. The others followed and saw an imposing man standing behind the desk. He was Josiah's height but more muscular and intimidating.
"Chris!" McDermott exclaimed. "What brings you here?"
"This isn't a social call, Angus," Chris said. "Two of my men are missing. Got a tip they were here."
"Really," Angus said. "If any of my men arrested any ATF boys they would have told me."
"They might here under duress," Ezra said. "And not brought to the attention of the proper authorities."
"Kidnapped?" Angus said surprised. "You accusing my men?"
"No," Josiah assured him. "But we thought you should be told."
"Let's cut the small talk," Chris growled. "I'm here to search this building."
"Still have that temper huh boyo?" Angus laughed. "There's plenty of places to hide someone in this old building. I'll round up some of the boys and we'll start looking."
"No," Chris said. "We don't know who's involved."
"Alright," Angus said. "We'll look ourselves."
Angus opened a draw and pulled out a ring of keys. He told them to follow him and they headed for the lowest levels of the building.
+ + + + + + +
JD jerked his head up from a doze and looked around. He could have sworn he heard someone calling his name. He listened for a few minutes but didn't hear anything. JD sighed and gasped as his bruised ribs protested the move. JD was so thirsty he'd kill for a glass of water. The only person who'd come to check on him had been Miller. He hadn't seen Burke or Delta since he was brought here. JD figured they spent most of their time with Vin. The two officers had been furious at Vin and JD's fertile imagination conjured terrible images of his friend. JD squirmed around to try and relieve the numbness in his arms when he heard his name again.
"I'm in here!" JD yelled as loud as he could.
JD was pretty sure no one could hear him with the noise of the machinery. He yelled again then waited. A few minutes later JD heard a key inserted into the lock on the door. JD's heart began to race thinking Delta and Burke came to beat him. The door opened and a huge red head walked in. JD blinked and stared. He's always thought Josiah was big but this guy had a few pounds on him.
"Got one," the red head called over his shoulder.
The next thing JD knew Buck was barreling through the door followed closely by Chris. Ezra and Nathan were quick to follow.
"JD!" Buck yelled and moved quickly to his side.
"I knew you'd come," JD exclaimed. "We have to find Vin. He's hurt!"
"Easy, JD, we'll find him," Nathan said as he came over to check him out.
"Who did this?" Chris demanded.
"Delta Burke," JD blurted and realized what he said from the expressions on their face. "Officers Delta and Burke."
"Had a feeling those two were bad," Angus said. "I'll have them picked up."
"No, not yet," Chris disagreed. "Not until we find Vin."
"Ow, Nathan!" JD protested as Nathan touched his wrists.
"Sorry, JD," Nathan apologized. "This is gonna hurt some as I take these cuffs off."
"Any idea why those disgruntled employees might have done this?" Ezra asked.
"Revenge," JD said. "Vin and Chris kicked them out of Inez's one night."
"JD do you know where Vin is?" Chris asked anxiously.
"No," JD admitted. "We were both out cold when they brought us here. I'm sorry."
"Not your fault kid," Buck said.
"OK, JD, you ready?" Nathan asked.
JD nodded and Nathan undid the cuffs with the key Angus had given him. He hissed in pain as Buck eased his arms forward. Nathan made JD wiggle his fingers. JD did as Nathan asked but admitted it hurt like hell. While Nathan checked JD, Josiah and an officer Angus trusted came to tell them Vin wasn't on this floor. JD could see Chris wanted to find Vin.
"I'm alright, Chris," JD croaked. "Go find Vin. You too Nathan, they beat him pretty bad."
"Buck, you get JD to the hospital," Chris said.
"I'm fine," JD protested.
"Don't' argue, kid, you're goin'," Buck said.
"Wait!" JD called as the others started to leave. "How'd you know we were here?"
"We receive an anonymous tip," Ezra answered.
"Damn he did it," JD said surprised.
"Who did what?" Josiah asked.
"The rookie, Miller," JD replied. "He's Burke's partner. Poor kid's only been on the force four days."
"Miller participated in this!" Angus bellowed.
"No!" JD said quickly. "He was afraid. They threatened to hurt his wife if he said anything. She's pregnant. Someone's gotta protect them."
"I'll go," Josiah offered.
"Alright, Mike, show Josiah to my car," Angus said. "Give him directions to Miller's place."
"Right captain," he said and left with Josiah.
"Buck get JD out of here," Chris said. "Use a side door. I don't want to tip any of Burke's friends."
Buck nodded and the others left. He helped JD to his feet and held him when JD's legs buckled. It took a few minutes for JD's legs to get used to moving again. When he was ready they walked out and headed for Buck' pick up.
+ + + + + + +
Ezra and Nathan watched in concern as Chris savagely opened doors looking for Vin. They were in the sub basement and Angus said this was the only other area Vin could be. Chris stepped up to another door and was surprised to find it locked. Angus stepped forward and tried several keys before he found the right one. He opened the door and found it dark. He groped around on the wall until he found the light switch and flipped it on. Angus wasn't prepared for what he found.
"Sweet Mary and Joseph," he cried and stepped quickly inside, with Chris hot on his heels.
"Shit!" Chris cursed when he saw Vin.
Vin was bound to a chair like JD. The sharpshooter was slumped forward and wasn't moving. Chris and Nathan eased him back so his weight wasn't on his arms. Vin moaned and opened his eyes.
"Easy, Vin, We've got you," Chris said as he pushed Vin's unruly hair off his face.
"Crisss," Vin said and gasped.
"Don't talk Vin," Nathan scolded when he saw the severe discoloring along Vin's jaw.
"Think it's broken?" Chris asked when he saw it too.
"Maybe," Nathan replied.
Chris reassured Vin as Nathan went to check his wrists. Ezra was cutting the ropes that bound Vin's legs to the chair as Nathan unlocked the cuffs. Nathan released Vin's left hand first and Vin screamed as his shoulder moved.
"Vin!" Chris yelled as Vin slumped unconscious against him.
"Ease him to the floor Chris," Nathan said.
Ezra helped Chris lay Vin on the floor. Nathan quickly moved to Vin's side and removed the cuff from his right wrist. Both wrists were bloody from where the metal had cut into the flesh. Vin's fingers were swollen from lack of circulation. Nathan carefully pushed Vin's shirt up to reveal several bruises on Vin's chest and abdomen. Nathan gently ran his finger over a large bruise on Vin's rib cage and could feel the broken bones. They carefully rolled Vin on his side to check his back. Chris cursed when they saw multiple bruises. The largest and most severe were concentrated over Vin's kidneys and lower back.
"I'll call an ambulance," Angus said and started to leave.
"Wait," Chris called. "Nathan can we move him on our own?"
"I wouldn't recommend it," Nathan said. "No telling what damage we'll do."
"Alright, Angus, call and ambulance but have them come without sirens and bring them to a side door," Chris explained.
"You think more of my men are involved?" Angus asked.
"I don't know but I don't want Burke and Delta to find out we found them," Chris said.
"What do ya have hatching in that devious mind of yours Larabee?" he asked.
"I'll explain once we get Vin out of here," Chris assured him.
Angus left to call the ambulance. Fifteen minutes later Angus came back leading two paramedics with a gurney. They quickly assessed Vin and started an IV. They placed a cervical collar around his neck and strapped him to a backboard. When they were finished they placed Vin on the gurney and carried him out. They loaded Vin into the ambulance and Chris told Nathan to go with him. Chris stayed behind to explain to Angus his plan for catching Delta and Burke. Ezra listened in admiration as Chris outlined his plan.
By the time Ezra and Chris had worked out the plan with Angus, Vin had already been examined and placed in a room. When they arrived at the hospital they found Nathan waiting for them. Josiah called earlier to let them know Miller and his wife were safe and that he was going to spend the night. Nathan told them Buck had taken JD home. JD was lucky. The doctors found no broken bones just some deep bruising and strained muscles. The doctor prescribed rest and some muscle relaxants. Vin hadn't been so lucky. Nathan brought Ezra and Chris to Vin's room. The first thing that caught Chris's eyes when he walked in was the stark white bandages circling Vin's chest. Vin's head was turned to the left so his jaw rested on an ice pack placed on the pillow.
"Is it broken?" Chris asked indicating Vin's jaw.
"No, he was real lucky," Nathan said. "It's just a hair line fracture. The doctors can't do anything for it but to let it heal on its own."
"I'm sure Vin will be quite grateful they didn't have to wire his jaw," Ezra observed.
"Not so sure about that," Nathan chuckled. "It's gonna hurt like hell whenever he moves it. He also have to eat a soft diet."
"Terrific," Chris sighed. "Vin's gonna love that. What about his back and his shoulder?"
"His shoulder was dislocated," Nathan answered. "There wasn't any spinal damage but the muscles will take time to heal. His kidneys took a real beating. They found blood in his urine and that's the real reason they're keeping him. He also has four broken ribs."
"His hands okay?" Chris continued his questions as he walked closer to the bed. He noticed ice packs covering both of Vin's wrists.
"Yeah they'll be fine," Nathan replied. "They're both lucky we found them when we did."
"Right," Chris scoffed.
"You can't blame yourself, Chris," Ezra reasoned.
"Oh I don't," Chris growled. "I know who's to blame for this one."
"What's goin' to be done about them?" Nathan asked.
"There's no need to worry," Ezra smiled. "Chris has a plan. Now Mr. Jackson, if you would be so kind to drive me home."
"I want you back here no later than ten," Chris warned.
"I assure you I will be prompt," Ezra smiled.
"What are you two up to?" Nathan asked.
"I'll explain as you drive me home," Ezra promised.
Chris pulled the chair closer to the bed and sat down. He leaned back and tried to relax. Vin and JD were safe. Now all Chris had to do was bring in the men responsible.
+ + + + + + +
Burke walked into the station to find Delta already at his desk. The sergeant called them into the briefing room to tell them their assignments for the night. He told Burke that Miller called in sick. Burke didn't mind the kid was too timid for his tastes. When the briefing was over Burke nodded to Delta and they headed for the basement. They had decided it was getting too risky to keep Dunne and Tanner at the precinct and were going to ditch them in Purgatory. Burke led the way down the hall and stopped by the door. He pulled out the key and unlocked it. The room was dark but they knew their way around and stepped inside. Delta flipped on the light and they were both surprised by what they saw.
"Expecting someone else?" Chris asked sitting in the chair Vin had been tied to hours before.
Burke screamed in rage and lunged for Chris. Chris jumped up and met him half way landing a punch to the bigger mans stomach. Burke doubled over and Chris didn't give him a chance to come up and punched him in the jaw. Chris watched in satisfaction as Burke fell to the floor.
"I wouldn't advise it," said a voice behind Chris.
He turned to see Ezra holding his gun pointed at Delta. The officer had his hand on his revolver and slowly moved it away.
"You're both under arrest," Chris said. "Ezra make sure you read them their rights."
Ezra pulled a card out of his pocket and read from it. Chris pulled Burke's cuffs from his belt and jerked his arms behind his back.
"That's' too damned tight!" Burke protested.
"Chris!" Ezra cautioned when he saw the rage in Chris's eyes.
Chris knew Ezra was right he couldn't do anything to them. If he did they would walk on a technicality. Chris grabbed Burke and hauled him to his feet. He pushed him out of the room and up the stairs. Ezra followed behind with Delta. When they got upstairs they turned the two officers over to two FBI agents who read them the charges against them. Chris got the satisfaction of knowing they'd be going to jail for a long time.
+ + + + + + +
Early the next morning Chris pulled up in front of Buck and JD's apartment complex. He had an hour before visiting time at the hospital and wanted to check on JD. Chris walked up to the door and buzzed the apartment.
"That you Chris?"
Chris heard the door buzz and pulled it open. He walked up to the second floor and Buck greeted him at the door. Chris handed him a bag from the bakery and walked in.
"How's JD?" Chris asked as he followed Buck to the kitchen.
"Stiff and sore," Buck answered. "But he's OK. I hear you gave Burke quite a scare when he turned on the lights. Then took a swing at ya."
"How do you know?" Chris asked.
"Ezra," Buck laughed as he poured them both some coffee. "He told Nathan and Josiah too. What are they gonna do about Miller?"
"Not sure," Chris admitted as he sipped his coffee. "I'll talk to Travis."
"Poor kid," Buck said. "Josiah said he was a wreck. He hated what they were doin' but was afraid for his wife."
"I hope they don't charge him," JD said as he slowly walked into the kitchen. "If it wasn't for him you'd never have found us."
"Don't worry," Chris said. "I'll make sure they all know that."
"What are you doing up?" Buck demanded as he pulled out a seat for JD.
"I'm hungry," JD replied.
"I bet," Buck laughed.
"How are you feeling, JD?" Chris asked.
"Not too bad," JD said as he snagged a jelly donut out of the pastry box. "My wrists hurt and my ribs when I take a deep breath, but at least they ain't broken."
"And you look like hell," Buck smiled as he brought JD some juice.
"Can't I have coffee?"
"Nope," Buck smiled. "No caffeine with the medication."
"Great," JD grumbled. "How's Vin?"
"Going over there this morning," Chris said. "They had him pretty doped up last night."
"We'll come too," JD said.
They finished breakfast and head over to the hospital. They took two cars and followed each other. When they parked the cars and got out Chris smiled as Buck tried to help JD. JD told Buck to get lost he wasn't an old man. Too which Buck replied you sure walk like one. The two taller men slowed their pace to match JD's as they walked to Vin's room. As they got to Vin's room they noticed the doctor coming out.
"How is he?" Chris asked.
"He's doing better," he answered. "There's still blood in his urine so we're going to keep him until that clears up. Hopefully the medications will take care of that. With rest and quiet he'll be as good as new."
Chris thanked the doctor and went in. Vin was in a reclining position and Chris noticed they had Vin's left arm in a sling to ease the strain on his shoulder. The ice packs were missing and they could all see the huge bruise on the left side of Vin's face.
"Damn they beat him good," JD said.
Chris walked over to the table and placed the laptop he'd been carrying on it. As Chris was setting it up Vin began to stir. Buck and JD moved closer as they waited for Vin to open his eyes. Chris took Vin's right hand and leaned over.
"Easy, Vin," Chris reassured him. "You're okay."
Vin slowly opened his eyes and blinked. They watched as Vin tried to focus. When he was finally awake Vin turned to Chris.
"Riss," Vin gasped.
"Don't talk," Chris warned as Vin squeezed his hand.
"Ssshi..." Vin cursed and closed his eyes.
"Doesn't listen too good does he." Buck smiled.
They waited for Vin to ride out the pain. When it finally settled to a dull roar Vin opened his eyes. Chris could tell Vin wanted to ask them something.
"Here, Vin, use this," Chris said as he placed the laptop across Vin's legs.
"Wondered why you brought that," Buck said.
The fingers of Vin's right hand were stiff and he carefully typed what he wanted to ask. When he was done Chris look at the screen and smiled. Some of the words were typed wrong but Chris understood.
"He wants to know how you are," Chris said looking at JD.
"Me?" JD laughed. "Hell I ain't half as bad as you are. I'll be OK. How about you?"
Chris laughed and read "I'm fine."
"Well hell, Junior, it this is fine I want to know what bad is?" Buck laughed.
Chris anticipated Vin's next question and explained what happened with Burke and Delta. Vin typed that he wished he could have seen Burke's face when he saw Chris sitting in the chair. They stayed with Vin until one of the nurses came in and said it was time for Vin's bath. Buck laughed at the look in Vin's eyes and told him to enjoy himself. Vin gave Buck the finger, which only made Buck laugh more. JD smiled and told Vin he'd see him later. Vin watched them leave and he typed as quickly as he could. It took Chris a few minutes to figure out what Vin had typed but when he did he laughed.
"Sorry, Tanner, I can't help you on this one," Chris smiled.
Vin glared at Chris as he began to walk away. Chris was glad to see Vin's spirit hadn't been broken by what happened. Chris chuckled as he watched Vin's eyes get wide as the nurses came closer. Vin may have survived the beatings by Burke but Chris wasn't so sure he'd survive his stay in the hospital. Chris closed the door and started to walk away thinking it was a good thing Vin couldn't speak.