Magnificent Seven Old West Universe
Under a Killing Moon by The Neon Gang

MAIN CHARACTERS: Vin, Chris, Seven

Editors' Note: The original version of this story first appeared in the Mag 7 zine, Let's Ride #17, published by Neon RainBow Press, Cinda Gillilan and Jody Norman, editors. When we all decided to post the stories that have appeared in the issues of Let's Ride that are more than 6 months, we opted to use a generic pen name because, while Erica Michaels was the primary author of this story, she had so much help from the other folks writing for the press that it just made sense to consider the story to be written by the Neon RainBow Press Collective! Resistance was futile. So, thanks to the whole Neon Gang – Dori Adams, Dana Ely, Michelle Fortado, Patricia Grace, Dani Martin, Erica Michaels, Nina Talbot, Kasey Tucker, Rebecca Wright, and Lorin and Mary Fallon Zane. Story lasted edited 1-2-2015. Art by Shiloh This story was plotted out for A Small Circle of Friends, a multi-media recycling zine, but that zine isn't being printed anymore, so it ended up here instead.  The plot is based on an episode of The Burning Zone.

No one sees me.  No one.  I walk among these pitiful prey like a lion moving in the tall grass; they see nothing.

I smile as I pass them on the sidewalks; they cannot see my true nature, or purpose.

They don't see my camera, even as my lens looks deep into their very souls.  It sees what no one else can see; no one but me.

They are contemptible, unworthy of my skills, but I'm feeling restless again.  I'm thinking things, feeling thoughts that stir my blood.

It is my father calling.

I must begin the hunt.  I must find more prey, and soon.

The time is close, so very close.  I know I have to hurry, but they are all so… insignificant.  Where is the one worthy of me, worthy of my father?

I feel no fear, no remorse as I examine them.  Tall, short, blonde, brunette, they are nothing to me; less than nothing.  They are prey, only that.

I am the wolf and they rabbits.  This is the way things have to be – predator and prey; life and death.

But where is the worthy one?

These are not perfect.  These are not worthy of my father.  He cannot touch these pathetic prey, they will taint him.

I'm looking for the worthy one, the deserving one, the perfect one.  One I can give to my father.

Wait…  There.  I think I've found it.  Yes.  Oh, yes.  There isn't any doubt, this one is the one, the only one worthy of my father.


Prey worthy of the hunt, worthy of my power, my kill.

I must have it, have him.  He too is a predator.  I should have known!  Only a predator is worthy of another predator; a predator such as this one is worthy of my father.

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

"Oh, my…  Oh, dear.  Oh…" the elderly physician muttered as he wrung his hands as he accompanied Chris Larabee and Vin Tanner down the corridor of the large Colorado Springs hospital.  "I never— I mean— If I had known—"

"The ATF is quite satisfied that you and the other administrators had no idea what Dr. Roberts was involved with," Larabee assured the nervous man.  After all, who would have suspected a physician of running illegal guns out of a major hospital?

Tall and blond, Larabee looked to be in his early forties.  The head of the ATF's Team Seven, Larabee didn't care to hear the excuses.  The administrators might not have known what Dr. Roberts was doing, but they ought to have known as far as he was concerned.

The older man nodded distractedly, absently wiping his damp palms on his medical coat. "Good— If we had known— So terrible."

Chris and Vin exchanged half-amused glances.  Dr. Carl Roberts was on his way to jail, and the agents were ready to head home to Denver for a well-earned long weekend off.

The doctor looked at Chris, a chagrined expression on his face.  "It's thanks to you that Dr. Roberts was stopped," he said, reaching out to take Larabee's hand in his.  "I can't thank you enough, Agent Larabee.  If this had become public knowledge— the repercussions for Memorial…  Oh, dear.  Oh, my…"  He shook his head, hunching his shoulders against the spate of images the notion generated.  "We were lucky, so very lucky.  The government was quite correct to send you.  Yes, yes, quite correct."

"I'm just glad we were able to put an end to this," Larabee said.

They stopped at the elevators and Buck, turning from the nurses' station, walked over to join them.  The tall ladies' man's expression was serious as he said, "Roberts is on his way to lock-up."

Larabee nodded.  "Good, we need to get on the road."  He turned to the older man.  "Dr. Shivington," he said, extending a hand.  The old man took it.

"Thank you again, all of you."

"Just glad we got the guy before he made off with any of my more important parts," Buck replied wryly.

"And what parts would those be?" Vin asked teasingly, pushing the down arrow button on the elevator.

Buck grinned a wolfish grin.  "A gentleman never tells."

"Then what's stopping you?" Chris countered.

A nurse at the nearby station called, "Agent Larabee?"

"That's me," Chris replied, taking a step toward the station as the elevator bell binged.

"There's a call for you from an Agent Wilmington?"

"What?" Buck snapped, his retort forgotten as he turned and strode after Larabee.  "How am I calling you?"

"I'll meet you two in the lobby," Vin called, stepping into the elevator as Chris accepted the phone.

"Hello?"  He listened a moment, then hung up, looking at Buck.  "Nothing; nobody there."

Both men turned back toward the elevator, watching the floor lights pop on and off as it descended.  The "L" lit, but the car didn't stop.  The basement "B" lit.

"I don't like this," Buck growled.

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

In the elevator, Vin watched the floor buttons lighting up as he descended toward the lobby.  When the "L" lit he took a step forward.

"What the hell?" he said softly, reaching out to press the lobby button, but the elevator continued on, the basement light blinking on a moment before the doors opened.

Vin stayed in the elevator car, peering out into the murky shadows.  From all appearances he had ended up in a utility area.  Leaning forward slightly, he pressed the close door button and waited.


With a sigh he stepped out of the elevator car, the doors sliding shut behind him.  He paused, letting his eyes adjust to the dim light, then turned, looking for an exit sign.


He jumped, swinging around to face whoever had startled him.  A man stood nearby, a sheepish grin on his face.  Vin's gaze swept over the stranger's oily coveralls, but settled on his clean hands.  Warning bells sounded in the back of his mind and he took a deep breath, mentally preparing to fight.

"Sorry about that," the man said, pushing light brown hair off his forehead with his hand.  "Didn't mean to scare you; we don't get many visitors down here."

"And how do your visitors get out 'a here?" Vin asked as casually as he could.

"Huh, well, that's a little complicated," he replied.  "Maybe I should show you."

Vin took a half-step back, giving himself the space he needed for a well-placed kick.  "Just point me in the general direction," he suggested.  "I'll find m' own way out.  No need to keep ya from your work."

The man nodded and pointed behind Tanner.

Taking a step back, Vin turned and started off at a brisk pace.  He immediately he heard the man following him, and turned to face him.  Seeing the stranger's hand reaching for his arm, Tanner lashed out with a sidekick to the stranger's midsection that doubled him over with a grunt.

Turning, Vin sprinted into the shadows, but the utility area was a maze of metal shelves, cabinets, and chain-link walls, so he couldn't navigate as quickly as he'd like.  He cursed the fact he was unarmed, having played the role of a patient in the successful sting.

A bellow warned him of the impending attack a moment before he was thrown against the chain-link wall of an enclosure.  He bounced off the wire, twisting around and swinging at the man.  His fist connected with the man's cheek and nose, and he immediately jerked his hand back to strike the man again.  But the stranger cried out, his hand immediately coming up to his broken nose.  His fingers came away bloody.

Using the distraction, Vin tried to bolt, but the stranger was fast – faster than Vin had guessed – and he was pissed.  He reached out and grabbed Vin's jacket, slamming him back into the chain-link wall once again.

Tanner grabbed the man's arms, but the stranger stepped closer, using his larger size and heavier weight to trap the agent against the cage wall.  Tanner considered using lethal force, but the sudden prick of a needle in his neck chased those thoughts, and all others, to quickly fade.

The man grabbed Vin's shirtfront, manhandling him around so his face was pressed painfully against the cold wire.  Then, before Vin could even begin to consider fighting, the man leaned against him and removed a washcloth from his pocket, forcing it over Tanner's face.

After a few moments the agent's already feeble struggles ceased, and Tanner sagged unconscious to the concrete floor.

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Chris Larabee strode across the parking garage toward the small tangle of police.  He glanced around, a frown creasing his face.

A young detective stepped up to intercept him, but before he could speak, Chris snapped, "Where are your forensics people?"

"On the way," the detective said, studying the blond man.  It was clear the ATF agent was pissed, and the way his green eyes were flashing, someone was going to get their ass handed to them.  "Look, I need you to call your men off, they're—"

Larabee stopped, turning slightly to meet the young detective's nervous gaze; green eyes narrowed dangerously.  "It's been almost an hour.  There's no crime lab personnel here, and you're telling me my people are in the way?"

The detective felt his head dip before he could stop it and silently cursed the damn feds who thought they had all the answers.  The truly annoying thing was, in this case they just might.  He forced his chin up.  "Mr. Standish made his credentials clear," he said.  "But this is my crime scene."

"Then I suggest you get the people you need down here," Chris snapped before stalking off when he caught sight of Buck.

Joining Wilmington, he asked, "What the hell happened?"

"We're not exactly sure," the ladies' man admitted.  "We think Vin's been kidnapped."

"Associates of Roberts?"

"Perhaps," Ezra said, joining the pair.  He took a deep breath.  "But I rather doubt it.  Nathan found some blood."

"Shit," Chris said on a sigh.

Buck nodded.  "But we got all of Roberts' associates.  He—"  He stopped as JD emerged from the shadows and walked over to join them.

JD waved a small plastic box with several wires dangling out of it at them.  "Induction tap," he announced.  "Whoever was down here was tapped into the elevator and the environmental controls."

The detective stepped up to join them.  "Look, I really have to ask you to leave now.  The crime lab boys are here."

Chris and Buck exchanged glances, but Ezra nodded to the detective.

"We'll be in touch," Larabee growled, heading off, Buck and JD at his side.

The detective reached out, catching Ezra's arm as he moved to follow them.  "Look, I can't say anything officially, but if you guys have the kind of clout I think you do…"  He glanced around, making sure no one was paying any particular attention to him, then added, "…It might be interesting if you took a look at our crime reports for the last year."

Standish's eyes narrowed, but he nodded.

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Vin groaned softly, the dull pounding in his head and thick dryness in his mouth telling him he was still in trouble.

"Wake up, sleepyhead," a taunting male voice called.

His mind raced, putting together all of the images and sensations into a coherent memory.  He raised his head and opened his eyes, blinking several times to clear his vision.  He was in a warehouse of some kind.  Wooden crates were stacked in rows, pieces of old equipment scattered around.  But it was his immediate surroundings that drew his full attention.

He was seated in a large wooden chair, leather straps securing him tightly in place.  In front of him were several 35mm cameras mounted on tripods, as well as a video camera, behind which stood the man who had attacked him.

"Who are you?" he demanded.

The man grinned.  Yes, he is the worthy one; so perfect… so very perfect.  He is worthy of my skill, worthy of my father.

"Tell me who you are," he continued when the man failed to reply.

He chuckled softly and shook his head.  Looking at Tanner over the top of the video camera, he said, "It won't work, you know.  I understand all the techniques – the command voice, the clear directive…  Next you'll tell me your name, ask for mine…  We'll talk, and you'll become a human being in my eyes, making it harder for me to kill you… but it won't work.  I already know who you are, Agent Tanner."  He ducked his head, pressing an eye to the video viewfinder.  "I can see you so clearly now," he said almost lovingly.  "You are indeed the one."

"The one what?" Vin asked, straining against the leather straps, but there was no give in any of them.

"The chosen one," the man said, zooming in on Tanner's angry expression.  Blue eyes flashed, sending bolts of excitement along his skin.  "I've been looking for you for a long time now… and now I finally have you."

The man suddenly stood and Vin jerked back in the chair.  "Ya know who I am?" he pressed.

"You can call me Hunter, Agent Tanner," the man said, walking past Vin to a long work bench.  "Are you hungry?  I'm sure I have something here you'd like.  Burger, fries, or maybe toast… with strawberry jam."

"Not hungry," Vin snapped, his head throbbing.  "Why are ya doin' this?"

"Because I am the hunter," the stranger said softly.  Reaching out, he gently stroked Tanner's hair.  "And you are my prey, Agent Tanner, my perfect prey."

Vin jerked his head, trying to escape the man's touch.  Hunter chuckled softly, then turned and walked away.  "I'll be back, Agent."

Vin listened to the echoes of his footfalls until they faded away, then called as loudly as she could, "Hey!  Can anybody hear me?  Hey!"

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Josiah stalked through the door into the hospital conference room Larabee had commandeered.  "I just got off the phone with Detective Mosley, the young detective from the crime scene."

"And?" Chris demanded.

"The blood we found at the scene wasn't Vin's."

"Then it must be his attacker's," Buck stated.

"Probably," Nathan agreed.  "But that doesn't get us any closer to finding out who the hell he might be."

"No, but this might," JD said, motioning the others to join him at a computer that had been set up at one end of the long oval table that dominated the room.

Chris moved around the table, pushing in several chairs to clear his path and joining the others at the monitor.

"What've ya got?" Buck asked.

JD tapped a key and a shadowy, dark image crossed in front of a surveillance camera.

"Yeah, so?" Buck responded.  "You can't make out a damned thing; it's too dark."

"Yeah, Buck, I know," JD snapped.  "But I got a friend of mine to send me some experimental software that might be able to help us."

"And until then?" Larabee asked, looking like he was more than ready to go break a few heads to find the information he wanted.

"We follow Detective Mosley's advice and tap into their computer files," Josiah replied.

"Covertly," Chris added.

JD's fingers were already working on his keyboard as he nodded.

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

"Hey, guys, I think I have something," JD called.

The others, who had been talking in soft tones at the far end of the conference table, moved quickly to see what he'd found.

"I ran the police data through a pattern-spotting program Homeland is developing," JD said, tapping a key.  "Using the police reports from here, and the other neighboring counties, it looks like there's been a rash of people disappearing and turning up dead."

"Look at the time intervals," Buck said, pointing at the screen.  "Twenty-seven days, twenty-nine, twenty-nine, twenty-seven—"

"Lunar months," Josiah acknowledged, nodding.

"When's the next full moon?" Nathan asked.

Ezra reached out and pressed the speaker connection to the administrative assistant working in the outer office.  "Ms. Joman?"

"Yes, Agent?" the young woman replied.  "Can I help you?"

"Do you have a calendar out there that indicates the dates for the full moon?" Standish asked.

"Uh, I'm not sure, sir.  Let me have a look."

The six men waited anxiously for a few moments before a tentative knock sounded on the door.  "Come," barked Larabee.

Another young woman stepped into the room holding a small paperback book in her hands.  "Uh, Nan said you needed to know when the next full moon is?"

"Yes, we do," Buck said, rounding the table to join her.

She handed him the book and he checked the title:  Llewellyn's Magical Almanac.  Buck's eyebrows rose slightly, but he refrained from commenting.  She indicated a set of grey pages in the middle of the white and he opened the book to find a set of monthly calendars.  He flipped to the correct month and scanned the dates until he found the "full moon" listing.  "Tomorrow night," he said thickly.  "At 2:10 AM."

"Uh, actually it'll be 1:10 AM here," the young woman offered.  "Time difference."

"Tomorrow?" Chris echoed, his face paling slightly.

"Thank you, sweetheart," Buck told the woman, escorting the woman to the door and opening it before he handed back the book.

"You're welcome," she said, leaving.

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Vin tested the leather straps holding him in the chair again, but they hadn't given any more than before and his wrists were already beginning to turn raw.  With a frustrated grunt, he squirmed, looking around to see if there was anything he could use to free himself.

The worktable just between and beyond two of the cameras drew his attention.  He could see his uneaten breakfast sitting there, along with a collection of tools and other items hidden in the shadows.

There, he told himself.  There has t' be something there I can use.

Jerking his legs up against the straps forced the chair to jump slightly closer to the table.  He glanced frantically around, expecting his tormentor to return in response to the echoing bang as the chair legs contacted the cement floor.


He jerked again, inching closer to the table.

Fear fueling his strength, he maneuvered the heavy chair next to the work table.  A long Phillip's screwdriver caught his eye and Vin bumped the table twice before it wobbled to the edge where he was able to grasp it between two fingers before it fell off.

Then, carefully manipulating the tool between his fingers, he was able to insert the pointed tip under the leather band and use it to unthread the strap.  But the actions were all far harder than they ought to have been, his fingers feeling bloated and clumsy.

Blinking away the sweat that dropped into his eyelashes, Vin struggled to force the tip of the screwdriver under the buckle, but it took far longer than it should have as well.  He glanced up from time to time, sure that he'd find his abductor watching, but Hunter was nowhere in sight.

With a soft victory grunt he was finally able to pry up the edge of the buckle and tug his hand free.  Shaking, his head spinning slightly, he worked to free himself as swiftly as he could, then bolted for the safety of the shadows in a drunken stumble.  He crouched there, waiting and listening.  When he heard nothing, he began a rapid search for an exit.

The distant echo of a door slamming urged him on faster.

"Agent Tanner, where are you?" came the man's taunting call.

He ground his teeth and bolted toward the lit "exit" sign.  Reaching the door, he grabbed the handle and pulled, cursing softly when he realized it had been chained shut from the outside.

"I hear you, you know.  There is no way out, Agent Tanner.  Come back…  Ah, there you are."

Vin spun, gaze frantically searching out a weapon, but finding nothing.

Hunter smiled almost kindly at him.  "Where did you think you were going, Agent Tanner?  You can't escape.  Your death is ordained.  It's fate.  You cannot escape fate, Vin."

With nothing left to do, Vin attacked, but the drugs used to capture him were still in his system and he was slow and sluggish, too uncoordinated to really be effective.  Hunter overpowered him, and he was dragged back to his chair.

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

"I've got something, and the software's working," JD announced in the quiet hospital conference room.

Buck turned away from one of the secretaries he had been talking to, following the others over to join JD.

Together they peered at the same shadowy image.  It was easier to make out a few details, but it was nowhere near good enough to make an identification.

"How much longer?" Chris asked.

"I don't know," JD replied.  "Each pass makes it better, but…"

"This is all you have?" Larabee almost snarled.

JD shook his head.  "An address – 330 West Yates Avenue."

"What's that for?" Buck asked.

"There might be a survivor," JD explained.

Josiah grabbed his jacket and shrugged it on.  "I'll go check it out."

Chris nodded.  "Take Nathan."

Josiah nodded, already on his way out.  "Will do, boss."

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

A soft rap at the conference room door brought Chris out of the light doze that had claimed him.  He stood and walked to the door, opening it.  A young man in a police uniform waited outside, a package in one hand, a clipboard in the other.  The detective's report.

"Agent Larabee?" the man asked.

"Yeah," he replied, pulling out his ID to show the officer.

The man's gaze dropped to the clipboard.  "I have a package for you from Detective Mosley."

"Thanks," he replied, extending his hand.

The officer handed him the package, then turned the clipboard around.  "Sign on line seventeen, please."

Chris did as instructed.  "Thank you."

"Have a nice day," the officer said before heading off.

Chris stepped back into the room.

"Is that Mosley's report?" Ezra asked.

"Yeah, but I'll bet he doesn't know who that shadowy bastard is, either."

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Josiah and Nathan climbed out of the cab, the profiler paying the driver before they crossed the street, heading for 330 when the front door of the condo opened and a petite young woman stepped out.

"Miss!" Josiah called, jogging to catch up to the woman as she stopped next to an older Accord parked at the curb.

Her head snapped up and she clutched her purse closer to her side when see saw the two men approaching her.  "What do you want?"

"Amanda Carl?" Josiah asked, reaching the car, but stopping far enough away so he wouldn't panic the woman.

"Yes," she said, reaching up to nervously tuck a strand of long brown hair behind her ear.  "Can I help you?"

"We need to talk to you, Ms. Carl," Nathan said.  "About something that happened nine months ago."

They watched her face go white and she grabbed nervously for the car's door latch.  "I— I don't know what you're talking about.  I'm— I'm late for work."

She pulled the car door open and Josiah immediately reached out, pushing it closed.  "I know this is hard," he said, "but the guy who grabbed you has graduated from teasing to killing.  I—"

"I haven't heard anything on the news," she snapped back, then shook her head.  "I don't know what you're talking about.  Now, leave me alone."

"Look, a friend of ours has been abducted.  He's going to die tomorrow if we can't find him.  We're just askin' for a little help, that's all," Nathan argued.

"No," she said flatly, climbing into her car and pulling the door shut.  She locked it.

"Damn it!" Nathan hissed, slapping the roof of the Accord.

She started the engine and revved it.

Josiah pulled out his wallet and opened it, removing a business card.  "Look, you might be able to save his life.  Please, think about it."  He slipped the card through the crack of the partially opened window.  "Call me if you change your mind."

She gunned the engine again and the two agents stepped back, watching her pull away.  "Call me!" Josiah yelled after her.

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Larabee looked up from the police report when Josiah and Nathan entered the conference room.  "Any luck?"

"No.  She isn't talking," Josiah said.  "This guy's got her spooked.  I asked Detective Mosley to put an officer on her; maybe she'll lead us to something we can use, but I wouldn't count on it."

Larabee sighed.  "JD's software's giving us a clean picture, but it's slower than I'd hoped."

The two men glanced over at JD, whose attention was focused on whatever he was doing on the computer.  "Where's Buck and Ezra?"

"I told them to get some rest."

Nathan nodded.  "Sounds like a good idea.  We're all running on fumes."

The blond knew exactly what his medic was saying.  "I tried, Nathan," he admitted.  "But all I dreamed about was Vin."

Josiah lowered himself into one of the soft leather chairs.  "I'll probably do the same, but I think I'll give it a try anyway."

"Go ahead," Chris told both men.  "We have another hour or two before the damn scan's finished."

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Josiah's dreams were nothing but a collage of disturbing images and he was grateful when Chris finally woke him.  "Got something?" he asked around a wide yawn.

"It's only a seventy-eight percent confidence level, but we have a match," JD called over to them.  "Ronald August…"  JD paused, waiting while police and federal crime databases were searched for information on the man.

Josiah and Nathan stood, stretched, and walked over to the large coffee urn in the corner of the room, pouring themselves each a cup.  Josiah picked up a stale donut and took a bit, softening it up with a sip of the hot coffee.  Carrying donut and coffee with him, he headed for a chair next to JD's and sank down.  Nathan stood beside him with just his coffee and a bottle of water.

"Got it," JD said, fatigue making his east coast accent slightly more pronounced.  "August is an ex-medical student.  He was expelled from UCD.  It appears that his first two victims were also medical students.  Apparently he secured them to autopsy tables and performed symbolic autopsies on them…"

"Great," Josiah growled, "a psycho with a scalpel."

Nathan leaned over JD's shoulder, scanning the information the younger man had found.  "It's consistent with the medical examiner's reports on the other victims.  A scalpel was thought to be the primary instrument used in every case."

Larabee shook his head.  "Not good enough.  We need to know where this psycho holes up."

"Maybe we can use the information to flush out our kidnapper," Josiah said.

"Run it in the local paper?" JD asked.

"It's a start," Josiah replied.  "He'll want recognition for his work.  It might incline him to contact us."

"What's this?" Nathan asked, leaning closer to the monitor screen.     "August purchased an abandoned building," JD said.  "Eleven months ago—"

"And the first incident, if Amanda Carl was the first, happened nine months ago," Josiah finished.

"I say we go check that building out – now," JD said.

"I'll wake Buck and Ezra," Nathan said.

Larabee nodded, already heading for the door.

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

The brick building was old and dirty.  A faded logo clinging to the street-side wall looked like a faded ghost trapped inside the brown bricks.  The agents moved forward together, JD remaining with the car in case they needed additional help.

Reaching the side of the building, Chris moved confidently along the wall to a door that was chained shut.  He tested the lock and it popped open in his hand.  His eyebrows peaked, and he looked at Buck, who nodded.  They were going in.

"Found an entry point," Buck said quietly into his lip mike.

"Roger that," Nathan replied.  "We have an open door."

"I have unimpeded ingress as well," came Ezra's voice.

Removing the chain as quietly as possible, Chris laid it by the wall, then pulled the door open.  Inside the gloomy light that managed to filter through the dust-coated windows did little to show him what they might be facing.  He glanced at Buck and signaled the man to take point.

The building, while still choked with crates and abandoned pieces of machinery, held no captive.  The agents split up, moving stealthily through the maze.

"Report," Larabee said after several minutes of searching.

"I have something," came Nathan's voice.

The ex-SEAL doubled back, moving swiftly though the narrow aisles created by the crates until he found Jackson.

Nathan stood next to a large wooden chair that sat in a cleared section of floor space.  In the chair sat a naked male mannequin.  A wig the same color as Vin's hair rested slightly askew on the thing's head, and someone had slipped Vin's denim jacket over the thing's shoulders.

"Damn it!" Larabee hissed.

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Vin jumped when his captor reached out, running a fingertip lightly along his cheek.  He blinked, realizing that he'd fallen asleep.  "Don't touch me," he snapped.

Hunter chuckled.  "I have something for you, Agent Tanner," he said, holding up the morning newspaper.  On the front page was a picture of Vin and another man.

"It's a picture of the man who kidnapped you," Hunter said, then laughed.

"It's not you," Vin said, his heart beating faster.

"No, it's not me.  Your friends, they think they're so smart, but they're not, you know.  I am much smarter than they are.  My father is the moon, and he has taught me well.  He taught me all about the hunt.  Under the full moon, the hunter's moon, the killing moon, he taught me," he said in an eerie sing-song rhythm.  "The moon will rise tonight, Agent Tanner.  Full, oh, so full.  And I will hunt tonight, and you will die.  It is the way of things."

He caressed Vin's hair and he tried again to jerk his head away, but Hunter didn't notice, lost in his own world.

"It grows full, engorged, and I must be ready.  The killing moon… all for you, Vin Tanner.  It is your moon.  I will give you to my father, and he will feast, and I will grow stronger, smarter, and more deadly."  He smiled down at Vin.  "You, my perfect prey, will make me perfect as well.  We will be joined, you and I, and then I will give you to my father, the moon, and he will make me perfect."

"Ain't perfect," Vin snarled.  "Ain't nobody perfect."

"True, no one by my father, and he can make me in his image."

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Back in the conference room the six men sat in silence until Larabee shoved himself to his feet and slammed his palms against the table top.  "The analysis indicates that August is our best match."

"And the warehouse was his," JD argued.

"But this death certificate says he died," Buck added with a sigh.  "Eleven months ago."

JD checked the computer.  "The next pass will be done in a little over an hour.  Maybe we'll get another hit."

"We should grab something to eat," Buck said.  "It's already after noon and my stomach's startin' to think my throat's been cut."

Nathan nodded.  "We have to keep our heads clear, and food and water will help."

Chris nodded his agreement, although he doubted he would be able to eat anything himself.  His stomach was tied in a knot so tight he could barely stand up straight.

A cell phone rang and all six men reached for their phones.  Josiah flipped his unit open.  "Agent Sanchez."

"Agent Sanchez, this is Amanda Carl.  I'd— I'd like to talk to you."

"When and where?" he asked her.

"Now, before I change my mind; the Starbuck's in Bon Shopping Center.  It's near Penrose Hospital."

"I'll be there."

"Don't make me wait.  I might lose my nerve."  She hung up.

He flipped the unit closed and dropped it back into his jacket pocket.  "Amanda Carl.  She's willing to talk."

JD handed Josiah a printed photo of Reece August, and the latest enhancement of Vin's abductor.

"Call if she has anything," Larabee instructed him.

Josiah nodded.

"Good luck," Nathan added.

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Spotting the uniformed officer parked near the Starbuck's, Josiah stopped and told him to head back to work, then walked to the coffee shop to find Amanda Carl.

He found the young woman sitting on a bench among a collection of tropical-looking flowers and plants.  He sat down next to her, his look intent.

She took a deep breath and said, "Please, just let me say this, then you can ask me whatever questions you need to."

He nodded.

"When I was a kid I lived in a series of foster homes.  Some of my foster fathers thought I was there to be their personal sex-toy.  Now I— well, let's just say I like my sex a little kinky.  I met him at a bar I go to a lot.  He seemed nice, almost kind.  I felt safe with him, but when I took him back to one of the rooms, he said he couldn't perform, said it was too dirty, too public.  He asked me to go to his place.  He said he needed to be able to see the sky.  I agreed.  It was… weird.  He had all these cameras all over the place.  He wanted to tie me up.  I went along until he started to lose it; started talking about hunting and killing and blood.  I told him to untie me.  He wouldn't.  I fought back, managed to get loose.  He grabbed me.  I kicked him and I ran."

Josiah pulled the two pieces of paper out of his pocket and unfolded them.  He showed her August's picture first.  "That him?"

She shook her head.

He showed her the second picture.

She shrugged.  "I can't really tell – maybe.  The picture's so dark."

"Did he tell you his name?"


"Where he works?"


"Tell me what he looks like."

"Tall, but not as tall as you, dark brown hair, brown eyes.  He was sort of vain.  At his place he kept telling he how good he looked; how perfect he was."

"Markings – scars, tattoos?"

She shook her head.  "I didn't see any."

"He didn't say anything about who he was?"

She shook her head again.  "No, nothing.  At the bar we talked about me, what I wanted.  When he took me to his place— It's part of what had me spooked.  All he talked about was his cameras; about looking through them and seeing souls, and how impure they were."

"Where was his place?"

She reached into her purse and took out a small slip of paper.  "I wrote down the address," she said, handing it to him.

"I appreciate you talking to me," Josiah said, standing.  "If you remember anything you think might help us, you have my number."

"I'll call you, but that's really all I know.  The guy was a complete freak.  I'm sorry I didn't talk to you before, but it's hard to admit… you know."

Josiah gave her a small reassuring smile.  "Take care of yourself."  He left her sitting on the bench.

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Josiah walked into the conference room as the others were grabbing their coats.  "What's up?" he asked.

"JD found another property owned by August," Buck told him.  "Want to tag along?"

"Damn straight," Josiah replied.  "The address Amanda gave me was a dead-end.  It's been empty for seven months."

"Well, maybe our luck's about to turn," Buck said, leading the way out.

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

The abandoned warehouse was empty except for a single chair predominantly displayed on a raised platform in the center of the space.  A single video camera was arranged not far away, the lens focused on the chair.

The six men approached carefully, checking the camera first, then the dais.  Chris heard a distinctive click and swore under his breath as the camera began recording.

"What is it?" Buck asked, looking from the camera to the blond.

"Camera just started," JD said, moving over to it.  "There must be a motion detector up there."

"Must be a control panel on this thing somewhere."  Buck started a search, quickly locating the panel on the far side of the dais.  He pried it open and hit the power switch labeled "camera."  The tiny red light blinked out.

"Annoying bastard," Ezra muttered under his breath.

The phone receiver set into the control panel rang and Buck grabbed it.  "Listen, you asshole, where's Vin—"

"Now, now, let's not get nasty," a male voice cooed on the other end.

Buck's gaze swept over the control panel, and spotting a speaker button, he jabbed it.

"You agents think you're so smart, don't you," the voice continued.  "But you're not, and I'll prove it.  Here's a riddle for you.  If Agent Tanner is near the airport, and is just about to die, what feature of the building he's in will catch his eye?"

The line went dead.

"Damn it!" Buck hissed, grabbing the phone receiver and jerking it free.  He threw it across the room.

"We have to decipher that message," Ezra said, stepping up to Buck and resting a compassionate hand on the man's shoulder.

The ladies' man nodded his thanks, but stalked away, pacing like a big cat in a small cage.

"Airport…" JD said.  "The airport… the sky?"

"The ceiling," Buck snapped, coming to a halt.

"Skylight," Ezra corrected.

"The full moon," Josiah guessed.  "Seen through a skylight."

"In a building close to the airport?" Nathan asked.  "That's pretty thin."

"It's all we have," Larabee countered, heading back for the cars.  He had remained silent and still on the dais, listening and watching, and inside knowing that Vin was in terrible danger.  He just didn't know if they could find him in time.

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

"Anything?" Chris asked, moving to stand next to Ezra, who waited behind JD's chair.

Their computer wizard shook his head.  "Not yet— Wait.  Here it is.  I, uh, borrowed one of the NSA keyhole satellites," he said.  "Looks like there are five possibilities in the area around the Colorado Spring Airport according to the infrared scan."  He glanced over his shoulder.  "I guess we have to check them all?"

"The most secluded," Larabee said without hesitation.

JD tapped a series of keys and the printer discharged the address.

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Arriving at the oldest and most dilapidated building that they had searched thus far, Chris was the first one out of the car.

A scream cut through the twilight, echoing in the chilly air.

Larabee sprinted for the building, the others on his heels.

"Chris!  Stop!" Josiah called.

Larabee ignored the warning, grabbing for the door and pulling it open.  Another scream echoed eerily though the building, urging him on.

He started into a narrow passage lined by stacks of wooden crates.  Three steps farther on Buck tackled him from behind, taking them both to the ground just before a burst of semi-automatic gunfire ripped into the side of one of the wooden crates, blowing it apart.

"Chris?!" Josiah called.  "Buck?!"

Chris turned his head and glanced up, noting the size of the hole blasted into the side of the crate.  "I don't think 'thank you' quite covers this," he stated dryly.

Buck pushed himself up onto his hands and knees, then climbed to his feet.  "Next time listen to Josiah, okay?"

"Chris?  Buck?" Josiah called, rounding the corner.  "Are you two all right?"

"Fine," Larabee said, adding, "thanks to Buck."

The ladies' man offered Chris his hand and pulled Larabee to his feet.  "You're welcome, stud," he said.

Another scream interrupted them and the five agents moved carefully forward, each with his gun drawn.  In a corner they found a small table with a tape-recorder playing.

Josiah shook his head, shoving his weapon back into its holster.  "This guy's way ahead of us, Chris."

Larabee ran his hands over his hair, frustration building steadily inside him.  A cell phone rang, and he fished into his pocket to pull it out.  "Larabee," he growled.

"The program's done," JD said over the phone.  "Ronald August is our man.  He's the only match – ninety-nine percent confidence level."

"The program's done," he relayed to the others.  "August's our man."

"But August is dead," Buck argued.

"We're missing something," Josiah said, shaking his head.

Nathan cocked his head, saying, "August was a medical student, right?  Maybe he chose a medical answer."

"Faked his death, changed his face," Ezra finished, nodding.

"JD," Chris instructed, "get Dr. Shivington to help you.  I want files on all the plastic surgery done in the area over the past eleven months."

"Will do," Dunne replied.

Chris closed the cell phone and slipped it back in his pocket.  "We're runnin' out of time," he warned, checking his watch.

"It's all we have," Nathan sighed.

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Vin watched as his abductor finished rearranging his film cameras and video cameras.  That chore done, Hunter moved to set out several medical instruments along one edge of a sheet-draped table.

"What're ya doin'?" he demanded, the words coming out slurred.

Hunter grinned but he didn't look up to meet his angry gaze.  "I'll bet you're wishing that you could heal me, aren't you, Agent Tanner?  I'll bet you're wishing that you had real healing powers, but you don't.  Only the moon can heal… only the moon."  His head snapped up, his gaze meeting Vin's.  "Do you know why I'm going to do this?"

"Because you're a fuckin' lunatic!" Tanner snapped, pulling at the restraints.

The man grinned.  "That's good.  That's very good!"  He laughed, the wild keening sound echoing through the warehouse like a banshee's cry.

"Shut the fuck up!" Vin finally yelled, jerking at the restraints again.

The man grinned.  "How would you know?  You don't even understand right and wrong!"

"I know this ain't right," he said, blue eyes flashing.  "Killin' innocent people ain't right."

"It's almost time, you know.  Soon I will make my father proud, and he will ensure that I find my place in history.  He'll make me perfect, and elevate me.  My reign will live on in the memory of history itself.  My name will be legend.  I will lurk in the nightmares of children, like Jack the Ripper…"  He walked over to Tanner, standing behind him and stroking his hair.  "What do you think they will call me, Agent Tanner?"

"Not a damn thing.  They'll just say you were a sick, brutal murderer."

He shook his head, his hands moving forward to cup his face.  His fingers pressed into Vin's skin.  "What will they call me?  The Werewolf Killer, perhaps?  I like the sound of that."  He glanced up, noting the darkness beyond the skylight.  "It's nearly time."

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

"We've got it!" JD said as he walked into the conference room waving a file folder.  He handed the material to Larabee, who opened the file, scanning the material.

"Plastic surgery… done on the west side… Frank Stanton—"  He looked up.  "Stanton… Stanton?"

JD dropped into his chair and attacked the keyboard.  "Stanton… Frank… part-time janitor here.  He was hired five months ago.  Home address is 922 Ambrose, here in the city."

"He has to be our man," Buck said.

"There's a follow-up photo on the way over," JD said.

"Maybe Ms. Carl can make an identification," Josiah said.

"No need," JD said.  "We've got 'im.  Stanton bought an old warehouse for back taxes – 1227 South Pond."

Chris grabbed the phone and dialed.  "Detective Mosley, Agent Larabee…"

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Hunter lit the candles he'd added to the scene, the light dancing off the skylight above them.  He walked to Vin and smiled down at him.  "It's midnight.  In one hour and ten minutes you will be given up to my father.  But before that…"

He reached out, caressing Vin's face.  He curled his lip and tried to bite him, the action slow and clumsy thanks to the drugs he had been given.

Hunter snatched his hand away, waving a finger at the agent.  "Now, now, Agent Tanner, you really must learn to behave yourself."

Chuckling softly, he moved to one of the crates and pulled a large futon pillow from inside.  He opened the pad next to the sheet-draped table, then smoothed it.

Turning, he smiled at Vin.  "It is time, Agent."

Vin tugged frantically at the restraints, and Hunter licked his lips in anticipation.  Kneeling next to the chair, he met Vin's gaze.  "You have to promise me, Agent Tanner.  Promise me you won't try to run away.  If you do, I won't be as nice to you as I was before.  I'll have to hurt you."

Vin watched as Hunter released one of his hands.  Instinctively he lashed out at him, and Hunter caught his wrist, pulling his arm over painfully.  He gasped.

"This doesn't have to hurt, Vin, not yet.  I will worship you.  It's my father who will hurt you.  But only he can make me perfect.  I have to give you to him, don't you understand?"

"Let me go," Tanner snarled.

"I cannot do that, Agent Tanner.  I have been waiting too long for one like you to come along.  I will be perfect.  I will live forever, haunting their minds, their dreams…  The Werewolf Killer.  Their blood will run cold every time there's a full moon."

He released one of Vin's feet, and the agent forced himself to take a deep breath, forced himself to wait.  He was too affected by the drug.  He didn't have speed or strength on his side.

Hunter released Vin's other foot.  He was almost free.

Vin struck, forcing his knee into Hunter's face with all the strength he had.  The madman's head snapped back, and he collapsed to the floor.

With shaking hands, Vin freed his other wrist and lurched into the maze of crates and machinery.

Hunter moaned, and rolled onto his back.  "Vin!" he screamed.

Tanner lunged through the crates, his eyes darting back and forth, looking for a means of escape or a weapon.  The sound of several crates being flung aside forced his legs to move faster, but it was like trying to run through waist-deep water.


He stumbled around one corner and staggered to a stop, trapped.  He spun, only to find Hunter blocking his escape.  Blood dripped from the madman's nostrils, painting his lips and chin red.  Vin searched frantically for a weapon, and finding none, reached up and tried to pull the crates down on them both.

Hunter grabbed and flung them aside, then grabbed him, his grip painfully strong.  "Come on," he hissed, dragging Tanner back toward the futon and the table.

Vin tried to kicked him, landing an ineffectual blow on Hunter's hip.  The man grunted and staggered a couple of steps, but he didn't let go.

Vin swung his fist, then clawed at the man.

Hunter grabbed his other wrist and spun him around, slamming Vin face-first into the crates.  White and yellow lights exploded in front of his eyes and he felt his knees buckle.

Hunter snagged one arm around Vin's waist and dragged him back into the ring of cameras, dropping him onto the futon pillow.  Tanner rolled onto his back just before the madman dropped on top of him, forcing the air from his lungs.

Hunter straddled the agent and, reaching out, grabbed Vin's hair, twisting it tightly into balls with his fingers.  He slammed Tanner's head into the pillow, screaming, "Why?"

The lights exploded across Vin's vision once again, and he tried to shake his head, but Hunter's grip was too strong.

"I would've been gentle, but you've forced me to prove to my father that I am not weak!"

His mouth descended on Vin's, smearing blood across his lips.  Tanner tried to turn his face away, but Hunter held him fast, first biting and then licking at his lips and chin.  Vin hissed his revulsion and tried to buck him off.

"Yes," Hunter hissed back softly, his head dipping lower so he could press his cheek against Vin's chest.  "You are so perfect… a predator…"

Tanner reached up, trying to push Hunter off, beating at the man with his fists, but the drugs made him too weak to stop whatever was coming next.

Hunter released Vin's hair and grabbed for his wrists.  Snaring them, he pulled them down, trapping them under the crushing weight of his knees.

Vin cried out, fighting harder as Hunter reached out and ripped his shirt open, slapping his bloody hands against Tanner's exposed skin.  One reached for the button of Tanner's pants.


Hunter looked sharply over his shoulder.  "No!" he screamed.  "No!  It is too late!  He's mine!  He will be my father's!"

"Get off him!" Larabee snarled, his gun trained on the man.  Next to him, Buck leveled his gun on the man as well.  "Now!"

Hunter pushed himself to his feet and Vin rolled off the pillow, moving on his hands and knees to the relative cover of one of the fallen crates.

The madman looked from Vin to the two men.  As he stared four others appeared out of the shadows, all of them armed.  He lunged for the sheet-draped table.

Larabee fired.

Hunter collapsed belly-down on the table, candles and surgical instruments scattering to the floor.  His fingers curled around the butt of an old .38 lying on the table, and he rolled over.  Staring up at the skylight, he could see Larabee's reflection in the glass, and behind him, the full moon.

Ezra bolted forward, placing himself between the madman and Tanner.

Chris took a step toward Hunter.

"Daddy!" the madman screamed.  "You promised!  You promised you'd make me perfect!  You promised!"  Lifting the .38, he aimed for the full moon and pulled the trigger.

The glass of the skylight exploded, shards raining down.  Chris and the others dove away, and Ezra pressed Vin closer to the crates.

When the echo of the last crash of glass faded, Larabee stalked to the table.  A large triangular section of the pane had pierced Hunter's throat, pinning the man's body to the table.  Unseeing eyes stared up at the moon.

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Josiah stripped off his jacket, handing it to Vin as the wail of police sirens filled the night.  "Are you all right, brother?" he asked.

Vin nodded.  "Will be," he said, pulling on the coat as he began to shiver.  "Just glad it's over."

"Us, too," Buck said, sliding his arm around Vin's shoulders in a protective embrace that Tanner seemed happy to stay in.

"I know this'll sound crazy," he said, wiping his blood-streaked cheek.  "But I knew you'd find me."

Buck gave his shoulders a squeeze and let him slip away as he said, "Damn straight we would."

"Vin, sit down and let me get a look at you," Nathan instructed.

"'M fine, Nate," Vin said, hugging the coat tighter around him as his entire body began to quake.

"Yeah, I can see that," Nathan replied, guiding Vin over to what looked like a sturdy crate and had him sit down.  He began a quick exam that ended a few minutes later when paramedics took over.

"Wanna go home," Vin said to Chris as the older man followed the gurney that was being rolled to a waiting ambulance.

Larabee nodded.  "Take him to Denver.  Summit Trauma Center."


"You heard me," Larabee snapped at the man.

The paramedic nodded.  "All right."

Detective Mosley caught up to Chris as the ambulance door closed and the vehicle pulled away.  "Agent Larabee, I'm going to need a statement from you and Agent Tanner."

"Come get Vin's tomorrow," Chris said, heading back into the building, the detective on his heels.

"Are they taking him to Memorial?" Mosley asked.

"No.  Summit Trauma Center, in Denver," Larabee replied.

"Denver?"  The detective looked from Larabee to his men and back again.  "All right, fine," he said, seeing the dark looks he was getting.

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

A few hours later and Team Seven were all at Summit Hospital and Trauma Center in Denver.  Vin was still being checked over by Dr. Chandler while the others haunted the ER waiting room.

All six men came to their feet when the physician entered, a smile on his face.

"How is—?"

Chandler held up his hand.  "He's fine."  At the disbelieving looks he got in response to that he added, "He has some scrapes, contusions, and he tore up the skin on his ankles and wrists, but there are no serious injuries."

"He seemed drugged," Nathan said.

"He was, but that's been metabolized.  He's tired, sore, and a little rattled, but I'd say this is more of a psychic trauma than a physical one."

"Care to explain that a little more, Doc?" Larabee asked.

Dr. Chandler nodded.  "What Vin went through was a trauma."

"Ya think?" Buck asked.

"I think the doctor just means that we have to expect that there will be some psychological healing that Vin will need to do," Josiah translated.

Chandler nodded.  "He's basically fine, physically, but I think he's still rattled psychologically.  I asked our on call psychologist to talk to him.  She's still with him now, but as soon she's done you can take him home.  He should take it easy for a couple of days, but I don't see why he can't go back to work after that, unless the psychologist thinks differently."

"Thank you, Doctor," Chris said, holding out his hand and shaking the doctor's when he took it.

"Doctor Andee will come out as soon as she's done."

"I'm done now," came a woman's voice.  A moment later a middle aged woman joined them.  She was trim and fit, with short red hair that was peppered with silver.  "Agent Tanner is more than ready to go home, although I'd rather see him stay with someone, or someone stay with him, for the next couple of days.  Until he gets his legs under him again – psycho-socially speaking."

"He can stay with me," Josiah offered.

Chris nodded.  He had planned to take the younger agent out to his ranch, but Josiah had degrees in psychology and psychoanalysis, and he did enough pastoral counseling in his role as an Episcopal deacon to be considered an expert in handling trauma.

"Agent Tanner ought to be out in a minute.  He was just getting dressed," Dr. Andee told them.

"Is there anything I ought to know?" Josiah asked.

"Nothing that I can tell you," she replied with a small smile.  "But having someone he trusts around ought to be a comfort to him, and if you can get him talking…"

"I'll do my best," Josiah told her.

The two doctors headed back to work and the six agents sat back down.  Five minutes later Vin came out.

"Can somebody take me home?" Vin asked.

The men exchanged glances.

"Uh," JD said, "the Colorado Spring PD dropped us off here…"

Vin's eyes rounded slightly.  "Y' mean we're stuck here?"

"I called Raine.  She's coming to pick me up," Nathan said.

"We're gonna grab a taxi," Buck said, gesturing to JD.

"And I called Mother, who's been staying at the condo while we were on this assignment," Ezra added.  "She has deigned to send her driver for me."

"I have the Suburban," Josiah stated.  "You and Chris can stay at my place tonight."

Chris shook his head.  "I'll hitch a ride with Buck and JD.  They can run me out to the ranch in the morning."

The men drifted off, Vin watching them go with a slightly worried look on his face.  He glanced over at Josiah.  "Y' can just take me home…"

Josiah shook his head.  "Doctor said you should stay with someone for a day or so."

"And y' got stuck with babysittin' duty."

"I volunteered," Josiah said, reaching out to rest his hand on Vin's shoulder, steering him toward the exit.

"Y' did, huh?"


"Think we can stop by IHOP on the way t' your place?"

"I think that can be arranged," Josiah agreed, his stomach rumbling at the thought.

"Appreciate it."

"Not a problem, brother."

They left, Vin with a small smile on his face.  It was good to be a part of a band of brothers, damn good.


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