Ratings/Warnings: Graphic torture of a major character
Summary: JD is kidnapped and brainwashed.
I would like to dedicate this story to the fine ladies in the JDs Chat Group. Thanks to Sue who pointed out to me that I hadnt archived it on blackraptor. And thanks to Nancy, who gives my stories a home!
The Chevy rolled to a stop and Buck shifted it into park. It had been a quiet drive home. JD left the office earlier in the day, complaining of a headache. It was no wonder he had a headache, he had been staring at that monitor on his desk for the better part of 18 hours, looking up information for their upcoming sting operation. The whole team had been putting in the long hours but only Buck knew that his roommate had sat up most of the night surfing and hacking his way across the information superhighway. He was a young man with a mission. The condo was completely quiet when he opened the door and he thought that odd, even when he was absolutely miserable, JD always had either the stereo or the television on for noise.
"JD?" Buck called as he peered into the kitchen. Crossing the living room to the bedroom door, he opened it and squinted into the darkness toward the bed. The kid had put cardboard over the window to keep out the early morning light, so the room was dark as pitch. "JD? You in here?" Cautiously, he flipped on the light. The bed was empty. Turning toward the bathroom, he knocked loudly on the door. "JD, you in there?" Getting no answer, he opened the door. A creepy feeling made Buck's hair stand on end as he headed for the garage.
The space where JD parked his motorcycle was empty. Buck ripped the cell phone from its clip and flipped it open even as he ran for his truck. "Chris, I just got home and JD's not here. I'm going out looking for him."
"Have you tried calling him? He may have stopped at Nettie's to see Casey or something?" the blond replied calmly.
Feeling foolish for panicking, Buck sighed, "You're right, I should have thought of that." Ending the call with Chris, he hit the speed dial for JD's cell phone. After two rings, it rolled into voice mail. Frustration began to tighten his brow as he dialed Nettie's number. "Ms. Nettie? This is Buck. You haven't, by any chance, seen JD today, have you?"
"No, Buck, I haven't. Casey's been here all day working on some project for her term paper. Do you want to talk to her?"
Talking to Casey only confirmed Buck's growing concern, JD was missing. Gunning the engine of the Chevy, he backed out of the parking space and roared onto the street. Steering with one hand, he dialed Chris again to let him know that he was going looking for the kid.
His headache made him reluctant to open his eyes. JD felt horribly sick to his stomach as he tried to will his eyes to open. When they did finally cooperate, it was to still unrelieved darkness. For the moment, it didn't bother him, his room was always dark. Not until he tried to move did he begin to panic.
Terry watched as his captive began to struggle against his bonds. An evil grin lifted his cheeks as he heard the muffled call for help. Picking up the microphone, he whispered ever so softly, "hello Michael."
The soft click sounded in his ear and JD strained to hear what other sounds he might use to figure out what was going on. A breathy whisper greeted him and called him Michael. Confusion compounded his panic as he tried to free his hands.
It was beginning perfectly. Terry knew that it wouldn't take long to break the intelligent young man. The hunter's earmuffs were wired with ear phones so that his captive could only hear what he allowed him to hear and the blindfold was made so that he could open his eyes but it was taped to his skin so that he couldn't see anything. Isolation and dependency were the first steps to turning the prisoner into an obedient slave. The insulated head box wasn't really necessary right now, but he couldn't wait to try it out. Later, it would be used as punishment, working its own brand of fear into his captive.
"How are you feeling, Michael?" he whispered into the microphone.
"My name isn't Michael, it's JD! Who are you and where am I?"
"Would you like something for your headache, Michael?"
JD huffed in anger. He didn't know who this guy was, but he was getting on his nerves and making his headache worse. "Let me go! I'm a federal agent, you can't keep me like this!"
"Oh, but I can. You see, no one knows where you are, Michael. Now, I'm going to give you something for your headache and then I'll come back later to talk." Terry peeled the backing off of the drugged skin patch and pressed it to the captive's bare stomach. He continued to rub in circles, enjoying the feel of the tense muscles struggling under his palm. Patting the prisoner on the thigh, he got up from the bed and left the room.
His stomach tingled from whatever the man had pressed to his skin and JD was terrified. He tried to move his head and felt the padded edge of the box that enclosed it. His hands were tied at the wrists and his ankles were also tied. As he felt the drugs pulling him toward sleep, he tried to remember how he had come to be in this predicament.
It had been ridiculously easy to persuade the handsome young man with the dark hair to give him a ride. JD had stopped at the Walgreens near home to get something for his head. Terry had approached him as he came out and went back to the bike.
"Sir, please, can you give me a ride? My little girl is sick and her doctor called in this prescription, but it was more than I expected and now I don't have any money for the bus home. She needs this right away. Please?"
The young man had hardly hesitated. Terry was even more excited that he lived in the same building. It had taken only a little more coaxing to get him inside the apartment. Once inside, he had quickly turned, pressing the stun gun to the man's neck. It was ridiculously easy.
Buck slammed on the brakes, mindless of the cars honking and the drivers shouting obscenities at him. He had been driving around for nearly an hour before he spotted the Kawasaki Ninja leaning against a fence. Leaping from the cab, he ran over, stopping just short of touching the bike himself. "JD, where are you? JD!"
"Hey, mister, you can't just leave your truck in the middle of the street like that! Some of us are trying to get home!" The angry commuter shouted as he came up behind Buck. He began to backpedal and apologize when the ATF badge and ID were shoved under his nose.
Pulling his cell phone, Buck called the office. "Chris, put out an APB on JD, I just found his bike abandoned."
Chris took down the address and instructed his friend and teammate to wait there, reminding him not to touch anything. He could tell from the clipped words that Buck was dangerously close to losing control and God help the fool who crossed him then. After calling the local precinct, he stepped out of his office and called out to the others who were still collating information.
"JD's gone missing and Buck found his bike abandoned. Vin, you and Ezra get over there and keep him together. Nathan, Josiah and I are going to meet you there in a little while." Even as he was finishing his sentence, Vin snapped the paper with the address out of his hand and jogged to catch up with Standish at the elevator. "Josiah, see if you can locate his cell phone. Nathan, call the hospitals and put everyone on alert to look for him. I'm going to call Travis. We're out of here in fifteen minutes."
The magnetic cherry ball looked incongruous on the sleek, black Jag, but it did get attention. Ezra laid into the horn to encourage people to get out of his way as he raced down the narrow side streets. Vin's jaw was clenched tightly as he kept one hand on the dash and one on the driver's seat for balance. The high performance car swerved tightly to avoid the cars pulling to the curb. He calmly gave Ezra directions to the address. Two squad cars were already on the scene when they arrived. They split up, Vin searching the ground around the bike for tracks or clues and Ezra moving to support Buck, who looked like he was ready to take a bite out of the rookie cop.
" don't care what procedure dictates, he's missing and you will look for him!" Buck was shouting as he glowered down on the young officer. To his credit, the cop didn't back away from the man who towered over him by a good six inches. He calmly kept a neutral expression as he waited for Buck to finish his description of JD.
"Buck, perhaps you could allow me to handle things here while you move your vehicle out of the intersection?" Ezra suggested as he carefully inserted himself between his teammate and the rookie. Tossing one last baleful glare at the cop, Buck turned and walked away, mumbling to himself about how the standard for the police academy must have been lowered for an idiot like that to have gotten on the force.
"You'll have to forgive my highly volatile teammate, he is a man of strong passions and right now, he passionately believes that his friend and roommate is in danger. What further information can I impart to aide you in getting on with the search?" Ezra asked smugly.
"Wakey, wakey, Michael," Terry said as he chaffed his captive's cheeks lightly. He had been asleep for a couple of hours and it was time for some fun. He could tell by the way the younger man responded that he was still disoriented.
"Who are you? Where am I?" JD asked as he opened his eyes to darkness again. The hand that had been slapping his face lifted and he felt his head being raised and settled on a pillow.
"Are you thirsty, Michael?"
"I keep telling you, my name is not Michael, it's JD! I demand that you let me go!"
Out of the darkness, a hand connected solidly with his head, snapping it to the side. A knee pressed against his groin and began to bear down until he cried out in pain.
"You're in no position to demand anything! If I wanted to, I could kill you right now!" Terry yelled into the microphone. Pulling the gun he had taken from his captive, he chambered a round, the sound traveling into the ear phones and rendering the prisoner still. He caressed JD's cheek with the cool metal, down from his temple, along his jaw and coming to rest in the hollow of his throat. He could see the Adam's apple bob as his captive swallowed reflexively. "Now, apologize for yelling at me and promise not to do it again."
Several long seconds passed before JD could summon the words from his dazed brain. He began to realize that he may have pushed his captor too far. "I'm sorry I yelled and I won't do it again, I promise," he whispered.
"Good, that wasn't so hard, was it? Now, would you like a drink of water?"
"Please," JD answered softly. A hand lifted his head and the opening of a bottle of water was pressed to his lips. Hesitantly, he allowed a trickle into his mouth to see if he could detect any taste of drugs. The water was achingly cold and he couldn't help but draw more of it into his mouth. After several swallows, the bottle was taken away. "Thank you," JD said.
"See, there's no reason for this to be difficult. You do what I say and I won't have to punish you, it's as simple as that. Now, I've got something for you, Michael."
Being unable to see what was coming only added to his terror and JD began to pull against his bonds. Even though his eyes were wide open, he saw only darkness. Tossing his head, he tried to rub the headphones off of his ears so he could at least track his captor. The material of his tee shirt was pulled up, exposing his vulnerable stomach. Even as he was drawing a breath to beg the man not to hurt him, the stun gun touched his bare, sweaty skin.
His captive screamed as the shock was delivered, body leaping as his muscles contracted painfully. When he withdrew the weapon, the young man slumped to the mattress, moaning in pain. An evil smile curled his lips; he was going to enjoy breaking this one.
Vin made note of a particular set of prints in the loose dirt of the empty lot where the bike was found. There were so many different prints that he doubted they were the kidnapper but he had to start somewhere. The rest of the team arrived in Chris's truck and spread out to begin questioning anyone who might have seen the bike when it was abandoned. Ezra had given the cops everything they needed to put out an alert for JD before joining the canvas of the neighborhood. Because the bike had rubber ribs on the hand grips, there was no way to check it for prints. The helmet had been perched on the mirror and was bagged to be dusted in case whoever hadtaken JD had touched the helmet to take it off of him.
"Be careful with it!" Buck yelled as Josiah lifted the bike into the back of the Chevy. The profiler made an apologetic gesture, knowing that Buck was beside himself with worry and didn't mean to be cross with his friends.
It was getting dark and Chris called the team together to discuss what they had learned so far. Vin pointed out the prints he had found. Nathan and Josiah had questioned a gaggle of teenagers and learned nothing. Ezra found a small boy who said that a man in a leather jacket had parked the bike there and walked away but the only thing he could remember about the man was that he had blond hair.
Judging from body language, they knew that it would be pointless to suggest that they begin anew in the morning, as Buck would not rest until the kid was found. The police put on extra cars and had them searching abandoned cars and derelict buildings in a six block radius from where the bike was found.
Nearing midnight, Nathan and Buck were scouring an alley where the drunks felt safe enough to sleep. One by one, Buck woke them as he pulled them up and shined his flashlight in their faces. They looked in the dumpsters and even under cars. The medic could see that Buck was running on pure adrenaline and that he would soon come down hard. Keeping close, he hoped he could prevent an injury when the inevitable happened.
Pulling a twenty out of his pocket, Ezra showed the picture of JD to the young gang members he had stumbled upon. Ordinarily, he would not have gotten involved or even spoken to them but he needed information and he didn't care who it came from.
"There's more if this man is found. Here's my card, call me day or night if you see him," Standish promised the gangly teens. The cash and the picture were plucked from his hand as the kids nodded their agreement.
Not too many blocks away, Josiah was making the same deal with another gang of kids. He knew several of them from the mission where he helped serve meals. They weren't a bad bunch, just lacking direction, rudderless and anchorless because their parents were too broke or drunk or doped up to look after them.
Chris and Vin were creeping up and down the alleys with a spotlight mounted on Vin's jeep. They were searching all the hidey holes and sheltered places that the police had deemed unlikely. When the jeep stopped, both men got out and checked the dumpsters that lined both sides of the alley. They surprised more than a few junkies who were sleeping off their last trip.
"If I hadn't seen your age on your license, I would swear that you were little more than a boy from looking at you, Michael." Terry asked as he cupped JD's chin.
"Please don't! Please!" JD begged as he tried to sink deeper into the mattress below him. He felt the bed shift and then warm breath blew along his jaw. Pulling against his bonds, he tried to move away from the spot where he was lying. The man's fingertips dug into his cheek as the other hand tightened on his throat. He struggled to draw a breath. Suddenly, the pressure lessened and he coughed as he drew air into his starved lungs.
"That was your first lesson. I can kill you any time I want. You're nothing to me. I can go right out and find another one just like you. I could throw your body in a dumpster and your friends would spend the rest of their lives wondering what happened to you. Although, if they were really your friends, they would have found you by now. I hope you like fried chicken. Just let me warm it up and I'll be right back."
Alone in the bed, JD struggled. He pulled at his bound hands and kicked with his feet. Frustration overcame him and he began to scream. Over and over he screamed, heedless of what it was that he was saying.
"Buck, for God's sake where are you? Come and get me, Buck! Help me!"
A stinging slap interrupted his screams. The headphones were stripped away. Then came rough fingers, digging into his jaw and forcing him to open his mouth as a ball was shoved in. The straps of the ball gag were tightly fixed behind his head, muting any further screams.
"Now I have to punish you, Michael," Terry said as he pulled JD up on his side. A knee in his ribs held him still as the belt was unthreaded from his captor's pants. Raising the warm, supple leather high, he brought it down across the jeans-clad behind, reveling in the snap it made as it connected. More muted screams followed as he rained blows upon his helpless, bound prisoner. When his shoulder ached from swinging the belt, Terry stopped. He pulled his captive over and checked that his breathing was not impaired by the gag before leaving the room.
Dawn had barely kissed the eastern sky when Team 7 gathered at the office to compare notes. They had expanded the search area to a twelve block radius of the area where the bike was found. The lab had not found any prints on the helmet other than JD's and there were no foreign hairs found in it either. They hadn't been able to get a signal from JD's cell phone because they said the GPS tracker had been disabled somehow. Vin brought in breakfast from an all night place and they sat around in the conference room wolfing down carbs for energy.
"I know this is going to sound stupid but a couple of us need to get some sleep and the rest follow in a few hours so we don't burn ourselves out," Nathan said.
"Fine, you sleep, I'll keep looking for JD," Buck spat in a nasty tone of voice.
"Settle down, Buck. You know he's right. We can't keep this up forever if we don't get some rest. Josiah, you and Nathan grab a few hours, then Ezra and Vin and me and Buck last. Let's try the neighborhood again, maybe someone will remember something today without all the cops around," Chris said. The others knew that it was no accident that the blond had paired up with Buck for the last nap and they were grateful to him for sparing them.
Returning to the area where the bike was found, they began asking questions again. As before, no one noticed anything, or nothing they were willing to share. Each man consumed a thermos of coffee and a handful of No-Doze to try to keep themselves functioning as their bodies beckoned for sleep. Buck wore a perpetual scowl and was so surly that Chris ordered him to stay in the truck when he got out the next time.
As the expanding search grid took them closer to the apartments where the roommates lived, Ezra decided to swing by and see if, by some miracle, JD had come home and was sleeping off some kind of medication. The apartment was as silent as a tomb when he let himself in. He quietly searched both bedrooms and bathrooms before leaving. He was so weary that he barely nodded to the blond man who was coming up the hall as he was starting down the steps.
At the gas station, Vin leaned against the roll bar and closed his eyes for a moment while he listened for the pump to shut off. He was bone tired and his back was beginning to ache from the long hours of sitting in the driver's seat. His eyelids felt like sandpaper as he rubbed them with his clenched fist. Digging into his pocket, he pulled out the eye drops he carried. Generously wetting his eyes, he blinked several times until the grainy feeling passed. The pump kicked off and he rounded the cost to the next dollar before hanging up the nozzle and taking his receipt from the slot. He debated going inside for another cup of coffee but his stomach was not too thrilled with the idea so he let it go. Pulling his aching body up into the seat, he started the engine and started searching again.
In the quiet of the small bunker room they had in their office, Josiah and Nathan awoke. Neither man had gotten much sleep because their minds simply would not let them lie there while their young friend was missing. After tossing around for a few more minutes, they both got up and headed for the gym to grab a shower. Thirty minutes later, they were back on the streets. Josiah looked up the gang of kids that roamed the area and Nathan made contact with the police to see if they had turned up any usable leads.
After the beating, JD vowed that he would not make the man angry again. The ball in his mouth made his jaw hurt and combined with the burning welts on his backside, he was pretty miserable. What little water he had been given had reached the end of its journey and was pressing uncomfortably on his bladder. He didn't think he could bear the shame of wetting himself, not to mention his fear of what the deranged man would do to him in punishment. He tossed and squirmed on the bed as he prayed for the man to come back.
"Are you uncomfortable, Michael?" the breathy voice asked. JD nodded vigorously. "Are you going to behave yourself if I take the gag away?" Again, JD nodded. He felt the rough hands fumbling with the straps and then the ball was pulled from his mouth and his jaw gently massaged. "Is that better?"
"Yes sir. Could I please go to the bathroom?" JD begged.
"Oh, is that what's bothering you? Of course you can. Let me get the urinal for you."
JD cursed his luck. He had hoped that the man would untie him and take him to a bathroom. One wrist was released and a plastic urinal pressed into his hand. He fumbled with his zipper, shame burning his cheeks as he directed his stream into the opening.
"There you are. Go ahead," Terry said cheerfully. From the way his captive turned his head away and the rapid rise and fall of his chest, he knew that he was humiliating the young man. He wasn't interested in his captive that way but the frightened agent didn't know that. When he finished, Terry took the container away.
As he removed the urinal, Terry heard his captive's stomach growl. "I'll bet you're hungry now. You missed the chicken last night because of your misbehavior. Would you like some nice oatmeal for breakfast?"
At this point, JD would have eaten almost anything, he nodded. Not being able to hear or see anything, he had no perception of time passing. He was startled when the man's voice addressed him again.
"I'm going to let you sit up to eat. But first, I have to put the chains on your ankles. If you try to kick me or if you resist, I'll beat you again, is that clear?" JD nodded, he would do anything to avoid being beaten. He felt his ankles released from the cloth ties. A large link chain was passed around his leg and a lock threaded through it to hold it snuggly against his ankle. The process was repeated on the other side, leaving about 18 inches of chain between his legs. Next, a belt of some kind was passed around his waist and cinched up tight. One of his hands was freed for a moment before being guided to his side and secured to the belt. The other hand was similarly restrained.
"Now, I'm going to sit you up on the edge of the bed," Terry explained as he pulled his captive around so that his feet touched the carpeted floor. He had gone to a lot of trouble to build the raised floor and walls and insulate them with soundproof materials so that he didn't have to worry about his captives screams being overheard by his neighbors.
Once upright, JD was dizzy and swayed slightly. Being unable to use his hands to steady himself lead to a slight panic. The rough hands held him and soothed him until he was able to sit up on his own. He was then fed. The oatmeal was warm and sweet and he eagerly opened his mouth for each bite. A cup was brought to his lips and he hesitantly tasted it before downing the milk he was being given. When the bowl and cup were empty, his captor spoke to him.
"Now I'm going to let you get cleaned up. In case you're thinking of trying something stupid, don't forget that I have this," Terry said as he rubbed the cool barrel of the gun along the side of JD's face.
JD was pulled to his feet and led across the room to a bathroom. Like the other room, it was soundproofed. Terror gripped him when he was picked up and dropped into the hot water. In his panic, he struggled and slipped on the slick porcelain. Being unable to use his hands, he thrashed in the water.
Terry let him struggle for a moment, to enforce his helplessness before reaching in and pulling him upright in the water. "Now, that wasn't very smart, Michael. Are you trying to drown yourself? I see that I'll have to fix it so that you don't slip under the water while I'm washing you."
He pulled the drenched body from the tub and dumped him on the floor, removing the restraints. "Strip," he ordered tersely.
JD debated refusing, fearing what would happen when he was naked. The sound of the gun tapping against the tiled wall reminded him that he had few options. Still coughing the water from his lungs, he rose unsteadily and began to remove his clothes. He struggled with the wet denim, slipping and falling against the wall before managing to free his legs. As soon as he had removed the clinging, wet tee shirt he was grabbed and his hands cuffed together, with his own handcuffs, he suspected. He was roughly shoved to sit on the commode and heard the sound of more water being added to the tub.
"There, now the water should be more comfortable," Terry said as he stirred the cold water around. He could see that the dunking had frightened his captive severely as he was trembling. Taking hold of one arm, he helped his `Michael' into the tub and handed him a washcloth.
Buck cursed and railed at Chris all the way to the bunker and flopped down on one of the bunks. In spite of swearing that there was no way he could sleep, he was soon dead to the world, only an occasional twitch betraying the turmoil in his mind. The police were coming up empty. Teams one and four had been assigned to aid in the search. Travis had taken them out of the rotation until further notice.
The day dragged on at an agonizing crawl. The gangs called in periodically to report that they thought they saw the dark haired man only to call back a little while later and say it wasn't JD. Vin and Nathan went to the apartment to see if JD had even made it home. Although, not knowing what they were looking for, it was a lost cause.
Josiah opened every file that JD had taken a larger role in, looking for a motive for someone to make him disappear. The FBI missing person's squad arrived and helped him with the review. Chris slept only an hour or so before he got up, leaving Buck to sleep. He spoke with Travis, the FBI, the other two teams and each of his own men.
After allowing his captive to dry off, Terry handed him some dry clothes. It took him a minute to pull on the sweat pants and tee shirt after he removed the handcuffs. Giving him a hard shove, he propelled the still blindfolded man across the room.
"Please, mister, please let me go. I just want to go home, please?" JD begged. He struggled as he was forced back on the bed and restrained.
"But I need you, Michael. I need you here where I can see you and touch you and care for you. I love you, Michael."
Biting his tongue, JD resisted the urge to shout that he wasn't Michael. Instead, he turned his head and struggled to quell his rising anger.
"I promise you that I will be gentle with you. I don't ever want anything to hurt you. You are my perfect mate," Terry cooed as he stroked his captive's cheeks. "Now, I need you to lie back down for a while. You can rest. When you wake up, I'll have a nice lunch for you and then I'll show you how much I love you."
From the window in the door, he watched his prisoner. He saw him toss around on the bed, trying to get comfortable. Next time, he would tie both of his hands to the same side so he could turn on his side if he wanted. In the mean time, he had to get ready for the evening.
To keep his captive off balance, he would alternate between being almost syrupy sweet and gentle with him and being cold and brutal. Soon, the young man would be painfully eager to please him to avoid being punished. The rubber hose slipped through his hands as he tested it for the proper degree of limberness. Not too hard, or it might do damage, but just flexible enough to wrap around the contours of back and thighs as he swung it. Yes, it was perfect. Without warning, he went into the room, flipped his captive to his stomach and began to beat him.
The suddenness and savagery of the attack stunned JD as he screamed under the blows. His captor didn't speak at all before he began to beat the bound captive. The hose fell across his shoulder blades and then across his thighs, spreading the pain over a large area of his body. JD's hands clawed at the air and he kicked against the ties on his ankles as he tried to evade each blow.
For the better part of two weeks, there was a painful routine for the men of Team 7. They slept in shifts and spent every waking hour searching for their missing friend. Meanwhile, every day, JD was brainwashed by his captor. By the eighth day, he began to answer to the name of Michael. On the fourteenth day, when his captive cried out from a nightmare, it was Terry's name he called and it was Terry that he clung to for comfort.
Orin Travis had locked horns with stubborn men before but none as stubborn as one Chris Larabee. The two men stood facing each other across the expanse of the large mahogany desk. There was a murderous glint in the younger man's eyes. Orin wasn't going to back down. He knew that he was right it putting the team back into the rotation and asking them to back up team six on an upcoming raid wasn't going to take all of their time.
"We won't do it! We're not giving up on JD like this, it's too soon!" Chris declared.
"Agent Larabee, you are dangerously close to insubordination," Travis warned.
"I'll be out of a job after this," the blond declared as he rounded the desk and struck the older man with a hard right. Travis stumbled back, falling into the desk chair as he looked up in stunned amazement. Absently, he rubbed his jaw, never breaking eye contact with the man who had hit him.
"You're suspended for two weeks without pay," Orin managed around the throb in his jaw.
"Thank you, sir. Can I have the team or do they need to come up here and hit you personally?"
"You did what?" Nathan asked when Chris returned to the office.
"I hit him. And I'd go up there and do it again if I had to. I'm not giving up on JD."
"So, let me get this straight. You went up there and hit Orin Travis and now we are all suspended without remuneration for the next fortnight?" Ezra asked as he stood up behind his desk.
"That's what the man said," Nathan answered with a grin.
"Well, I would have liked to at least been present for the altercation. I'm being punished for something that I haven't even had the opportunity to do," Standish protested.
"Don't worry about it, Ezra. I told him you'd all be up to hit him personally," Chris called from his office.
Over the next two weeks, Terry slowly broke his captive. By controlling every single aspect of his life, he enforced the idea that `Michael's' very life was his to take whenever he decided. Waking him from a sound sleep to beat him or throw him into a cold shower, he destroyed the young man's ability to resist. At times, he stood in the door and listened at the tears and soft sobs that couldn't be held back. He repeatedly told `Michael' that his friends had given up on him, that he had no one. At other times, he promised to love his captive forever. When he was suitably broken, Terry removed the blindfold. Michael blinked rapidly and his eyes watered profusely, even in the dim light of his `cage.' For the first time, he laid eyes on the man who had become his living nightmare. He was allowed to shower and saw the myriad of bruises that adorned his pale skin. He shuddered in fear every time his captor touched him.
Terry wasn't stupid. He knew that the young man was intelligent enough to play him. After a while, he began to switch things up. He acted angry so that his captive would try to placate him. He acted sad and depressed so that his captive would comfort him. And then, for no reason at all, he would punish his captive. `Michael' tried to anticipate him and learned a painful lesson.
JD was sore from the small of his back to his knees. His captor had been almost kind to him over the past couple of days. The blond man had brought a TV into the room and allowed him to watch. After an hour or so, he had become drowsy. Suddenly, Terry slapped him, threw him against the bed and began beating him with a belt. He didn't know what he had done wrong. Still confused, he had been left without supper.
In the middle of the night, Terry turned on the lights and dumped his captive out of bed. Pouncing on him angrily, he tied his hands behind his back. Setting him on his knees, he backhanded him, holding him by the shoulder so he couldn't fall back. Dazed, he was dragged into the bathroom where a tub of steaming water waited. The air in the small, heavily insulated room was thick with steam and he could see more rising from the tub. Terrified, JD threw himself against the man, begging not to be put in the bath.
Reveling in the complete power he had over the younger, smaller man, Terry smiled as he pushed his captive toward the tub. He could see the fear shining in the wide brown eyes as he put his captive on the floor and tied his ankles together. Terry gathered him up in his arms and knelt beside the tub.
Curling his head against Terry's neck, JD begged not to be put in the hot water. He trembled, hoping desperately not to have to do the bath thing again. He was relieved when his captor rested back on his heels for a moment. Ten seconds later, he was dropped into the water. With his hands and feet bound, he wasn't able to keep his head above the water. The scalding temperature confused his nerves for a moment, at first the water felt cold, then the signals changed and he felt like he was being boiled alive.
Judging that he hadn't had time to draw a deep breath, Terry waited until his captive was near to drowning before offering to help him. Grabbing him by the hair, he held Michaels head above the water, watching the terror and pain in the soul's windows. Tightening his grip on the black tresses, he pulled and the bound man opened his mouth to scream. Terry pushed him into the water to stop him from screaming and then pulled him up, coughing and sputtering.
"Be still, Michael," he ordered. "Don't move at all and I'll take you out of the tub."
JD tried to be absolutely still, even to holding his breath. Terry's hand, which was still holding his hair, clenched again and JD was unable to be still. He thrashed, splashing the hot water out of the tub in his struggle to be free of the hurtful touch.
For twenty long minutes, JD was held up to his chin in the scalding water. Finally, it occurred to him that there might be a way out. Shuddering in spite of the temperature, he looked into the other man's eyes, "I love you, Terry," he whispered. The hand in his hair loosened and he was pulled out of the tub. As his captor draped a towel over JD's head to dry his hair, he didn't see the demented, knowing grin. He had been broken.
A week passed like that, for several hours, Terry was kind and gentle with his captive, then, for no reason JD could fathom, he would be punished. It made him painfully eager to please Terry so that he wouldn't be beaten or thrown in a tub of steaming or icy water. His captor was so pleased with him that he let him out of the room and into the rest of the apartment for a few hours each day. One day, as punishment for going to the bathroom without asking permission, JD was gagged and his bound hands were hung over the edge of a door. His ankles were tied to the ends of a broom stick so he couldn't touch the floor or bring his legs together. For the next half hour, Terry entertained himself by shocking his captive with wires stripped off of a lamp. The electrical shocks were especially painful when applied to his bare back and ribs.
By the end of the first week of their suspension, Chris was afraid that Buck was going to kill someone if he didn't get his temper under control. They all knew that if they didn't find some clue soon, that there was very little chance that they would ever find JD. Buck had all but moved out of his apartment because of the reminders of his roommate that were everywhere he looked.
Finally, after almost four long weeks of conditioning, Terry was ready to take his captive outside for the first time. Michael/JD was so obedient that he didn't even pee without getting permission first. He picked a small target for their first time out, a little mom and pop grocery store only a few blocks from the apartment. Dressing Michael/JD in faded jeans and a tee shirt, he looked like any other young man walking around in the daytime without a job. He gave him an unloaded gun and they went for a walk.
Mrs. Simmons smiled as the two young men passed her in the hallway. That JD was always so polite and both he and his roommate were willing to help her when she needed something moved or brought in from outside. She smiled at JD as he walked by and was a little hurt when he didn't even meet her eyes. When she thought about it, she hadn't seen either JD or his roommate in the past couple of weeks. She wondered if they had a falling out.
"Now remember, wait until there aren't any other customers in the store and then show them the gun and tell them you want the money, understand?" Terry's voice held an edge of promised punishment if he wasn't obeyed and JD nodded.
Mr. and Mrs. Potter had been running the small grocery store on that corner for almost 20 years. They knew all of the kids and most of the adults in the area. They always had a piece of candy for the little ones and they didn't gouge with their prices, so they were well liked. Gloria nodded to the young man who came in and she went back to counting the penny candy for the little boys at the counter.
"Twenty-two, twenty-three, twenty-four, twenty-five, twenty-six, there you go boys. Do you need one bag or two?" she asked.
"But Mrs. P. you gave us too many. We only got a quarter, twenty-five cents," the taller boy protested.
"Well, you certainly can't divide an odd number between the two of you, now can you? You go on ahead and take the extra one and have a good time playing. Now, off you go," she urged. The boys smiled at her before taking the bag of candy and running out of the door, eager to tell that they got a free piece of candy.
"Can I help you, son?" Mr. Potter asked as he noticed the young man lingering by the soda cooler. The boy looked nervous, he kept glancing out toward the sidewalk.
"Give me the money in the register," Michael/JD said as he pulled the gun from his pocket and pointed it at the old man. Flustered by her fear, the woman tore the first bag she tried to put the money into. When she finally got the cash shoved into the paper sack, Michael/JD grabbed it out of her hand and took off.
Terry grabbed him and yanked him into the alley and they knelt down behind a dumpster. He took the bag and the gun before pulling his captive up and leading him back to the apartment. As they walked, they were passed by two police cars going in the other direction to the store they had just robbed.
Suspended against the wall by his wrists with the gag in his mouth, JD sobbed as the rubber hose connected with his lower back again. He had taken too long in the store and he might have been caught. Terry was displeased with him. To add to his torment, the box was back. This time, it was mounted to the wall so that JD had to kneel to put his head in it. His hands were strapped to the sides of the box and he was left there overnight. The darkness and confined space worked their special tortures on him and he began screaming after a couple of hours.
When released from the box, Michael/JD was painfully eager to please Terry again. This time, he was taken by car to a place a few blocks farther from the apartment. As before, he was given the gun and sent into the store. Several minutes later, he ducked out and walked around the corner to meet Terry. He surrendered the money and the gun and was rewarded with a gentle caress.
That night, he and Terry went out to eat. The local Sizzler had a special on T-bone steaks and they both had a steak and a baked potato. Terry knew he was taking a chance, taking his captive out in public so close to where he disappeared, but he was confident that Michael would not betray him. And he didn't.
The third day, Terry got bold. He took Michael/JD to a check cashing place. He knew that they were trained to give up the money without a fight after a clerk at another place was killed and her family sued the parent company. Less than five minutes later, his captive came sauntering out with just over five thousand dollars. Terry was thinking that it was time to take his show on the road.
Chris stared at the grainy black and white photo for a long time. "You think it's JD?"
"The description matches him down the line. This is the third robbery committed by a man matching Agent Dunne's description. You've got to find him before he gets himself killed," Orin said.
"Did they get a description of an accomplice?"
"A blond guy in a leather jacket."
"Just like the kid said about the guy who dumped the bike. Nothing more?"
"I'm sorry, Chris, but that's all I've got. You can go by the places yourself and talk to the people, see what you can get out of them."
To say that Buck was furious at the idea that JD was robbing places was like saying that the surface of the sun is warm. Josiah and Chris both tried to calm him down before he put his hand through the ribbed glass window in the team leader's office door. Vin and Ezra stared like rabbits at a hungry wolf, too scared to move out of the way when Buck shoved them against the wall and stormed out of the office. A series of blood drops marked his way like breadcrumbs.
"Agent Wilmington, you're out of line!" Travis was shouting as the rest of Team 7 burst into the office. "I didn't say he was willingly robbing these places, I just said it LOOKS like he's willingly robbing these places. If he has a good reason for waving a gun in that nice old woman's face, then bring him in and let's hear it!"
Nathan cautiously circled before catching hold of Buck's hand and pressing a gauze pad to the deep gash on his knuckles. He stayed low, to be out of the line of fire.
"And STOP BLEEDING ON MY CARPET, I JUST HAD IT CLEANED!" Travis yelled.
When they returned to their office, there was a message waiting on Buck's phone. It was his landlady calling to tell him that his mailbox was overflowing and to ask if he would come by and take care of it.
"Come on, Buck. I shall escort you to your domicile so that you may tend to your correspondence," Ezra offered as he picked up his keys.
"That mean you're going with me," Buck asked in a teasing tone. It was almost a smile and it was the first one they had seen since JD vanished.
As they were coming out of the building, Mrs. Simmons stopped them on the parking lot. "I was just wondering if you and that adorable roommate of yours had a falling out? I haven't seen much of either one of you recently. When I saw JD last week with that blond man, I just wondered, you know."
"You saw JD here last week? In this building?" Buck asked, grabbing the elderly woman by the forearms.
"Yes, I saw him with a blond man. I think he lives in 3C or 3E," the woman answered, looking uneasily at the blue eyed man.
"Thank you, Mrs. Simmons. I can't tell you how much that information means to me!" Buck said before giving the woman a big kiss on the cheek.
"Well, I'll be," she declared softly as Buck took off running back into the building.
"Bless you, Ma'am," Ezra said as he tipped an imaginary hat at the woman before taking off after Buck. When he caught his teammate, he practically had to wrestle him to the ground to get him to listen. "You know we can't go busting in there without a warrant or at least probable cause."
"We got witness testimony that JD was with that man. I don't need any more probable cause!" Buck shouted as he tried to shake off the smaller man.
"At least allow me to call our illustrious leader and inform him of our plan so that he can begin collecting bail money for our inevitable incarceration."
They were too late. Terry had noticed the pair of ATF agents coming across the parking lot and raced up to his place to get Michael and get out. By the time they got the warrant to break into the apartment, the men they were looking for were on their way to Silver Springs.
"Merciful God!" Josiah intoned softly when he discovered the small, soundproof room where JD had been kept. The chains on the bed were their first clue that their young friend might not be acting on his own good conscience. The spots of blood on the sheets and walls attested to someone having been beaten. Buck broke down when he realized that JD wasn't in the apartment. He slammed his recently stitched knuckles against a couple of walls, adding his own gory decoration.
After they got Buck to Ezra's place, Nathan gave him a shot to calm him down and help him sleep. The rest of the team set the wheels in motion to locate the owner of the apartment, one Terrence Michael Donagan. In no time at all, Donagan's face was on every police computer for a hundred miles. While searching the apartment, the FBI uncovered a loose floorboard with a cache of photographs, photographs of JD and of other young men, some of them clearly dead when the photos were taken. Only Chris and Josiah saw those photos, both of them were hard pressed to keep their lunches down.
That night, at a little motel along the highway, Terry tied Michael/JD to the bed. He was furious that his apartment had been discovered. The news reporter was saying that a serial murderer had been holed up there and that the police and the FBI were now investigating him. His eyes came to rest on the relaxed body on the other bed. He had hoped this one would last longer but he knew he would be able to find another. Sighing, he turned down the other bed and slid between the sheets. He had plans for in the morning and he figured that his young companion might not survive.
At Ezra's apartment, the Southerner was busy collecting all the information he could find on the man who had JD. What he found was deeply disturbing. Mr. Donagan had been hospitalized for schizophrenia in his early twenties. Under the care of his psychiatrist, he was discharged and promptly disappeared. Since then, everywhere he lived, there was a string of unsolved murders of young men, most of whom had been brutally tortured before they died. When Josiah came by a couple of hours later, he revealed some of the things they had found in the apartment. Together with the information Ezra had unearthed, it appeared that Mr. Donagan was determined to find and program a partner to his exacting standards. Stacks of magazines on bondage and torture were scattered around his bedroom. Other books and articles, detailing brainwashing and controlling others through punishment and rewards were on the shelves. They could reasonably assume that JD was thoroughly in the control of his captor and might even fire on the team if he was told to.
For the next twelve hours, the members of Team 7 followed every lead they could find on the man who had JD. They were coming up empty. Buck, still heavily sedated, was snoring in the guest room while the others discussed a plan.
"You're going to have to do it, Vin," Chris was saying to the sharpshooter.
"I don't know if I can. I mean you're askin' me to shoot JD. He's just a kid and he's a friend, I don't know if I can look down the sights and pull the trigger," Vin lamented.
"If you don't wing him and he kills another cop or some innocent bystander, how's he going to feel when we get him right again? What if some other cop kills him? Vin you have to do it if you get the chance," Chris said.
"What in the name of Sam Hell are you talking about? Shoot JD? Did I just hear you tell him to shoot JD?" Buck had come in so quietly that no one heard him. Now Chris was paying the price for their inattention, as his friend was holding him by the collar and pushing him up the wall.
"Buck, let him go!" Josiah warned.
"Buck, you better let go," Vin urged.
"Buck, you don't want to be doing this. You ain't exactly thinking straight," Nathan said.
"Mr. Wilmington, if you damage that section of wall, I will send you the bill for the repair," Ezra warned without as much fervor as the others of his team. Buck slowly turned his head to look in disbelief at Standish as the team leader slid from his grasp.
"You'll send me the bill? Is that all you're worried about? Your precious walls?"
"No, I was concerned for the well being of our leader. None of the other entreaties were succeeding in achieving his emancipation."
Just like that, the tension dissolved around them. Chris pulled out a chair and pushed Buck into it and began catching him up on the things they had learned while he had been asleep. They ordered in several pizzas and Vin went out on a beer run and they waited for news.
The next morning, Terry wakened Michael/JD for the last time. They shower and then dressed, with Terry telling his friend that this would be their finest moment. After this last robbery, they would be able to go away together. Michael/JD lapped up the approval and the encouraging comments. They slipped out of the hotel and had breakfast at a little diner before going on to Silver Springs.
"We got them! Donagan's car was spotted getting off of the highway in Silver Springs. The police have been told to keep an eye on them but not to approach them," Chris told the others after hanging up from talking to Orin. Like a stampede, they left the condo and piled into Larabee's vehicle. Like a dark angel descending, the big, black dodge raced down the highway, the blinking lights in the grill warning cars out of the way.
Parking his car a half block away from the bank, Terry and Michael/JD got out. They looked like any of the other young people on the sidewalk. Laughing and joking with his captive, Terry led them to the bank. Once inside, they separated. Michael/JD went to the teller line while his captor went toward the cubicles where the managers and loan officers sat. Because the bank had only just opened some fifteen minutes ago, it was fairly empty. Michael/JD
smiled at the teller as he pulled the check from his pocket. Across the face of the check was a single phrase, `this is a stick up.'
For her part, the young woman remained surprisingly calm. She set the check aside and began stacking the money on the counter. The dark haired young man pulled each stack into his jacket, all the while smiling and friendly.
Chris's cell phone rang and he snapped it open, speaking tersely to the caller. A moment later, he dropped the phone in the seat and gunned the engine. The big, extended cab truck roared to life, swaying from side to side as he wove in and out of traffic.
"They're holding up a bank on First Street. It's JD and that Donagan. They just got the silent alarm. I want all of you in body armor and wired for sound. We may only get one chance to get JD out before all hell breaks loose."
The truck screeched to a stop and all six of them bounded out. The police had blocked both ends of the street and were carefully evacuating the bystanders. Chris held out his ID and was directed to the officer in charge. The SWAT team arrived just behind them and officers poured from the large vehicle like a swarm of angry hornets.
"We've got two men inside the bank with six bank employees and a guard. So far, they haven't shown any weaponry or made any threats. We tapped into the bank's cameras and have an excellent view of the
entire lobby," the OIC explained as he allowed them to lean over the computer screen to see the captured images.
"The dark haired man is one of ours, he's an ATF agent. He's been missing for a month and may have been brainwashed by the other guy," Chris said.
"As long as he isn't shooting at us, we won't shoot at him," the officer replied smugly.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Buck shouted angrily, "We just told you that he doesn't know what he's doing and you'd shoot him anyway? Are you insane?"
"Easy Buck," Chris said. "We'll get JD out of this."
The SWAT team commander reviewed the bank footage before sending his snipers into the building across the street. Chris sent Vin along with them. Unnoticed amidst all the posturing and angry words, Ezra and Buck slipped away from the command center van. Putting on their best official faces, they moved along the lines of people being evacuated from the area, cautioning the bystanders to stay calm and keep moving. Before anyone noticed, they were only a few yards from the bank entrance.
"What in the hell are they doing out there?" an officer shouted as he looked toward the bank. All eyes were suddenly directed toward the pair of ATF agents casually approaching the doors. Ezra had put on his vest under the Armani jacket and Buck was wearing his Parrot Heads windbreaker, so that they wouldn't be recognized as agents. The OIC began to curse as he called for a situation update from his men.
"Keep calm and don't upset him," Ezra reminded Buck as they reached the doors.
"I'm not going to let them kill him," Buck replied, his jaw tight in his anger. They opened the door and strolled in as if they had no idea what was happening behind the tinted windows. Ezra went directly toward a teller while Buck stopped at the counter where the loose deposit slips and other forms were kept.
"Good morning, I'd like to cash a check. What kind of identification do you require?" Ezra asked as he smiled at the rather startled woman.
Buck took one of the forms and looked around as if confused. "Excuse me sir, but do you know how to fill one of these out? I left my checkbook at home and I need some cash." The bank officer's hands shook as he reached for the form. To his credit, he stayed remarkably calm as he directed the `customer' to his desk. While the man was explaining the form, Buck watched the blond man. He was standing in the corner nearest the emergency exit watching JD as he collected money from the next teller. "Do you have a restroom? That coffee I had this morning is running right through me," Buck asked, trying to get closer to JD's kidnapper.
Across the top of the form, Buck had identified himself to the man and asked him to remain calm. The bank officer nodded and gestured toward the restroom sign, which was conveniently in the direction of the blond robber. Buck smiled in thanks and rose carefully from the chair. As he turned around, Terry recognized him and pulled a gun from his coat pocket.
"He's got a gun! Subject one has got a gun!" the officer called as he stared at the computer screen. Chris shoved his way closer just in time to see the blond man approaching Buck with a gun. He watched in dismay as the remaining tellers panicked. On the other monitor he saw JD pulling a gun and pointing it at his roommate. The feral look on the kid's face was something he had never seen before.
Disappointment scrolled across Buck's face as JD pointed the gun at him. He had hoped that the kid would turn on his captor as soon as he realized that the team was there to rescue him. Holding his hands well out from his sides, he stood absolutely still as he looked from JD to Donagan and then to Ezra. Standish had cornered three of the panicked tellers and was trying to keep them calm and quiet in the corner.
"Alright, all of you, get on the floor against the counter. Now!" Terry yelled. The frightened bank employees quickly moved to comply with the demand. Ezra, guiding the other three tellers with him, knelt beside the counter and tried to keep his head down so that Donagan wouldn't recognize him. "Michael, shoot him!" the blond ordered.
With his heart in his throat, Buck watched as JD tightened his grip on the gun and thumbed the hammer back. For an instant, just a brief flash in time, he understood why Chris had ordered Vin to shoot their young friend. His eyes locked on JD's and he saw confusion and hesitation.
"Do it or I'll have to put you back in the box after a nice, long, hot bath," Terry coaxed. Buck saw the fear in his coworker's eyes as the gun barrel wavered slightly. Suddenly, the glass window shattered and JD spun around, slamming into the counter. Seeing his chance, Buck surged forward, knocking the gun away and tackling Terry to the floor.
It was a very, very risky shot but Vin had taken it. From the way JD was standing, there was no way to take a wounding shot. The 357 was a pretty big target and the sharpshooter prayed that it didn't take off the kid's fingers.
JD cried out in pain as the gun was torn from his grasp. He slammed against the counter before slumping to the floor. Immediately, someone grabbed him and he began to struggle. Fear overcame pain as he was pinned on his stomach and his hands jerked to the small of his back. He screamed for the one person he thought would help and protect him, "Terry!"
On the carpeted floor, Buck and Donagan grappled. Although Wilmington had height and weight on his side, Terry was wiry and strong. Finally, Buck managed to get on top and pin the other man's arms at his sides. Drawing back, he slammed his fist into the blond man's face. He was snapped out of his rage by the anguished cry of his roommate. Looking up, he watched as Ezra pulled JD to his knees. Instead of gratitude and relief, he saw rage in the brown eyes that locked on his.
"Terry! Don't hurt him! Please don't let him hurt him!" JD begged as he looked up at Ezra.
Before Ezra could reply, the building was swarming with police and SWAT team personnel. Buck was pulled away from the blond and pushed toward the counter. Four men approached Ezra and took hold of JD. The kid came up kicking and screaming, in spite of Ezra telling them that he was an ATF agent. The SWAT officers dragged JD out the doors and shoved him into a waiting police van.
"Wait a minute! That's my man you have there!" Chris yelled as he watched JD thrown roughly into the back of the van.
"For now, he's subject two in this robbery. Please step back, Agent Larabee," the SWAT team leader said in an authoritative voice.
Confusion reigned in the bank as Ezra and Buck were also handcuffed when their weapons were discovered. Together with Donagan, all four of them were loaded into separate vehicles and taken to the police station. Chris and the rest of the team had to wait until police cars could be moved before they could leave because the truck was surrounded.
At the police station, JD was roughly removed from the van and manhandled into a room to be searched. After the second time he kicked at the officers, his feet were shackled. Pinning him against the table, they removed the handcuffs and removed his jacket. Bundles and loose bills fell from the liner and were quickly picked up. When they removed the long sleeved flannel shirt that was under the jacket, they got a glimpse of the bruises and welts that dotted the young man's shoulders and lower back.
Buck and Ezra were placed together in a cell to wait until their identities were confirmed. They sat side by side on the bunk, staring angrily at anyone who dared meet their eyes. When they heard the main door open, they both looked up. Buck came to his feet in rage as he saw JD being dragged into the cell next to them. The tee shirt he was wearing had ridden up, revealing the horrible bruising.
"What in the name of God did you do to him?"
"We searched him and removed evidence from him. Your boss is upstairs right now arranging for your release so sit down and shut up," the officer said after slamming the cell door closed.
From where he stood, Buck could see JD curling up on the cold, stainless steel bunk. He tugged off his jacket and threaded it through the bars.
"JD, scoot over here and let me put this around you. JD? Come on, scoot over here," Buck urged as he reached between the bars. When JD did move, it was to back away, pressing his back against the wall.
With tightly clenched teeth, JD seemed to growl, "If you hurt Terry, I'll kill you."
Reeling in shock, Buck turned to Ezra. He pulled Wilmington back to the bunk and whispered in his ear, "He's been brainwashed. He doesn't mean what he's saying."
Another officer arrived and opened the door to the cell. Buck and Ezra stepped out and stopped before the cell where JD continued to glare angrily at them. Chris pushed past the officer who was trying to keep him out of the lockup. He stopped before JD's cell and stared in disbelief.
"Get those cuffs and shackles off of him!" he ordered of the officer standing beside him. Buck reached out and plucked the cell keys from the man's hand and started for the cell door.
"Hey! You can't do that!" the officer protested as Buck opened the door.
JD pressed against the bunk, trying to shrink into the corner as his roommate approached. Ignoring the terrified expression, Buck reached out and unlocked the shackles and removed them. Up close, he could see the bruises and restraint marks on the pale skin.
"Come on JD, sit up here and let me get those cuffs off." But JD didn't move. When Buck reached for him, the brunet cried out.
"Don't hurt me! Please don't hurt me!"
Buck's hand froze. The plaintive plea was like a knife in his heart. Bewildered, he turned to Chris, who was standing behind him. Larabee took the keys and nudged Buck out of the cell. Speaking softly, he edged closer to JD.
"Will you let me take the cuffs off?" After a long moment, JD relaxed slightly and leaned away from the wall. Chris gently removed the handcuffs, noticing that the index finger on his right hand was dislocated, swollen and discolored. The team leader peeled his windbreaker off and carefully wrapped it around the trembling young man. He was surprised when JD leaned against him.
"Will Terry be alright?" he asked as the warmth of the jacket penetrated his chilled skin.
"Don't you worry about Terry. Let's just see about getting you out of here," Chris answered.
Orin Travis pursed his lips as he glared at the two police officers. He was immediately directed to the lockup where he was confronted by the sight of JD cowering in the jail cell.
"Get him out of there!" Travis growled.
Chris coaxed JD to his feet and led him out of the cell. Buck stepped closer and JD flinched, shying away and whimpering in fear. Buck sighed and dropped back, staying out of sight as his heart broke. Ezra placed a supportive hand on his arm as they left the lockup.
Commandeering an interview room, Nathan examined JD. He could hardly believe the battered, bruised waif shuddering before him was the same cocky kid who had badgered his way into the job three years ago. Nathan gently splinted the dislocated index finger and carefully checked JD for other injuries. Kneeling down so as to be less intimidating, Jackson tried to explain what was going to happen. "We're going to take you to the hospital so they can check you over, okay?" He waited patiently for any kind of response.
"And Terry, will he be there too?"
"I don't know about Terry. Right now, I'm just worried about you," Nathan assured him.
Chris had gotten JD's shoes from the evidence bags and brought them into the interview room. As soon as he came in, JD questioned him. "Where's Terry? Is he alright?"
"You don't have to worry about him anymore, JD. You just need to work on getting better," the blond said calmly.
"My name's not JD, it's Michael," the computer whiz answered. A quick look from Nathan stopped Chris from correcting him.
Walking between Nathan and Chris, JD again shrank from Buck. When they got to the truck, Chris gestured Ezra and Vin into the back seat with JD and Nathan. He deliberately put JD next to Tanner, thinking that he could help control him if Dunne should try to escape. As soon as the truck started moving, JD's knee began bouncing like crazy. Nathan reached over the seat and pulled out the blanket Chris kept back there for emergencies.
"Are you cold?" he asked. When JD nodded, he spread the blanket over him. Five minutes later, JD was asleep, leaning slightly on Vin with the blanket clenched tightly in his fist.
"Is he going to be alright?" Buck asked softly.
"It's going to take a while. From the marks on him, I'd have to say he's been treated pretty rough. It may take a while for him to come around," Nathan answered.
"I should have killed that bastard when I had the chance," was all Buck said.
Arriving at the hospital, JD was still deeply asleep. Josiah offered to carry him. He carefully worked his hands under JD's legs and shoulders while Nathan kept the blanket tucked around him. Buck, Ezra and Vin hurried inside to secure a room so that they wouldn't have to wait. JD didn't stir, even when he was carefully placed on the hospital bed. Josiah gently rested his hand on the pale brow before he stepped away. Nathan conferred with the doctor, detailing what he had seen while checking JD at the police station. The doctor ordered a mild sedative be kept on hand and went in to tend to his patient.
Pacing in the waiting room, Buck was the picture of worry and concern. He couldn't shake the image of JD cringing like a whipped dog. The bruises he had seen and the ones Nathan described spoke of long hours of pain and torture. He was interrupted mid stride by a scream of terror. Instantly, all five of the other men were moving with him toward the exam room. The nurse barred the door but they could see that JD was shrinking from the doctor, wide eyed in fear. They watched as the doctor calmly spoke and gradually, JD relaxed enough to lie down. When it appeared that JD was asleep, Chris tapped lightly on the door. The nurse squeezed out without allowing them into the room.
"Dr. Avalon sedated him. He was just trying to examine his hand. If you will all return to the waiting room, I'll come get you as soon as we know anything else," the redhead told them firmly.
Some four hours later, Dr. Avalon stepped into the waiting room and asked them to accompany him to another room where they could talk.
"I'm going to ask you to hold your questions until I have finished. Now, first and foremost, JD is under the assumption that his name is Michael. He seems concerned that he doesn't know his last name. Secondly, his finger was separated at both of the lower joints. I'll have someone from Ortho look at him in a few hours. Physically, his blood work showed no drugs of any kind in his system. He wasn't dehydrated. It does not appear that he has been raped." There were several relieved sighs from the collected group.
To the doctor's considerable surprise, there were no questions. The stunned group of men merely turned to follow the nurse when she came to show them to JD's room. Their teammate was still asleep when they arrived and the whole team gathered around the bed to get their fill of looking at him. The dark bruising on his neck and wrists stood out in sharp contrast to the pale skin and snowy white sheets. The IV bag was a simple hydration formula and he wasn't on any kind of medication. When JD began to twitch, they backed off, not wanting to frighten him as soon as he wakened.
Opening his eyes to the hospital room, JD was frightened. He knew he had been here before but the very thought of remembering when and why scared him. There were people in the room, he knew they were there and he cautiously raised his head to look at them. Two he recognized from the police station, Nathan and Chris. The others had been in the truck with him but he didn't know their names.
"Can I get you something, JD?" Nathan asked as he stepped closer to the bed.
"My name's Michael," he answered.
"I'm sorry, Michael. Can I get you something? Are you thirsty?"
"Where's Terry?" JD asked.
"He's still at the police station. Do you want something to drink?" Nathan asked again.
"No, thank you," JD replied softly.
An awkward silence filled the room. Vin suggested turning on the television and they found a ball game to watch. Buck stayed as far away from his roommate as possible in the confines of the room while watching every move his young friend made. The nurse came in several times to check on him and each time, she offered to bring him something to eat or drink and he refused. Nathan wasn't too worried, he was still on the IV. Chris and Vin slipped out to make calls and inform Travis of JD's condition. Ezra and Buck also left in search of refreshments, hoping that having something in the room might entice JD into eating. While they were gone, JD began to squirm uncomfortably in the bed. Nathan repeatedly asked if he needed to go to the bathroom and JD denied it. Josiah tried asking and got the same denial. After a few more minutes, it was painfully obvious that JD needed to use the bathroom and for some reason was holding back. Nathan went to find the doctor, to see if he had found any reason for JD's refusing and to suggest a catheter.
With his bladder painfully full, JD tried hard not to make a sound. He kept glancing toward the door, hoping for Terry to come and tell him that it was alright for him to go. Curling on his side, he clenched his thighs together and tried to hold it just a little longer.
Josiah moved quietly to the side of the bed, thinking that JD had gone to sleep. Seeing that the blanket had slipped and that he could see bare skin, he reached out and tugged the blanket, tucking it in close around the young man. His touch startled JD and caused him to wet himself. The profiler watched as the horror and sheer terror contorted JD's face.
"What is it, son? What's the matter? Are you in pain? Do you want me to call the nurse?" Josiah reached out, intending to gently squeeze JD's shoulder. Instead, JD recoiled in fear before crumpling in tears. The profiler hurriedly lowered the railing and sat on the side of the bed. He gathered JD into his arms and held him, rocking and petting him gently.
"I'm sorry. I'm sorry. Don't punish me. Please don't hurt me," JD begged as he clung to the older man.
Nathan and the doctor came through the door and froze at the look Josiah directed their way. He continued to rock and soothe JD until he relaxed slightly. Tucking his chin close to the long, dark hair, Josiah asked softly, "What's wrong, son? You can tell me. I won't let anyone hurt you."
"I'm wet," JD whispered. "I tried to hold it. I really tried. Don't let Terry punish me. I tried to wait for him. I really, really tried."
The enormity of what they were facing was made clear in those frightened words. Terry Donagan had controlled every aspect of JD's life, punishing him if he didn't obey. Josiah continued to soothe JD as the others crept in silently. The doctor slipped another mild sedative into the IV and they waited until JD was soundly asleep before they made a sound. The bed was stripped and JD washed and dried. The doctor was hesitant to use a catheter but judging from JD's reaction, he went ahead with it. By the time JD wakened again, everything was dry and all evidence of his `slip' had been removed.
It took a lot of creative coaxing to get JD to eat. Mostly, it consisted of closing the door and promising not to tell on him. Josiah seemed to have become his protector, a fact that hurt Buck to no end. During the night, Buck and Josiah sat on opposite sides of the bed and watched JD sleep. When the nightmares struck, JD bolted up in bed, screaming for Terry. When Buck tried to comfort him, JD recoiled again, frightened of his roommate.
Orin Travis came to the hospital with a psychiatrist the next morning to talk to JD. He wanted to get a statement regarding his kidnapping and the details of what had transpired in the apartment those long weeks.
"Hello, JD, how are you doing today?" the psychiatrist asked.
"My name's Michael," JD answered defensively.
"Okay, Michael. Can you tell me what happened between you and Terry Donagan?"
"What do you want to know?"
"Did he hurt you in any way? Did he do anything that you didn't like?" Orin knew they were on shaky ground, he couldn't suggest anything or JD's statement would be considered coached.
"Terry loves me," JD answered.
"Okay, but can you tell me about what happened in the apartment? What did you do together?" the doctor pressed, trying to get the young man to open up and discuss what had happened to him.
"He fed me and took care of me."
"And how did you get the bruises on your wrists and ankles?" Travis pressed.
"When I misbehave, Terry has to punish me. I was bad sometimes."
Out in the hall, Buck drew a shuddering breath as hot anger boiled in his veins. Chris and Josiah squeezed his shoulders supportively.
"Can you tell me exactly what Terry did to you when you were bad?" the psychiatrist asked.
"He he loves me. He wants me to be good," JD protested softly. "I tried to be good. I did what he told me to do. Even when it hurt sometimes."
"When what hurt sometimes? What did he do to you?"
"When he punished me it hurt. I tried to be quiet like he said, but it hurt and I cried. He hit me sometimes. He used his belt. I didn't know what I did. I'm sorry," JD's voice dropped to a whisper.
Buck was shaking with rage as he listened to the list of horrors his friend had endured. His stomach rolled and bile burned in his throat as he swallowed around the knot that tightened his windpipe. His nails were digging into his palms as he clenched his fists.
"What else did he do to you?" Orin asked after allowing JD a minute.
"He he put me in the box. I didn't like the box. He put me in the bathtub. You won't let him hurt me anymore?" JD pleaded of the older man.
"I promise that he won't hurt you anymore but you need to tell me what all he did to you in the apartment. Can you do that for me?"
Slowly, like peeling away the layers of an onion, JD revealed more and more of his torture. When he talked about the electric shocks, Buck bolted from the window and into the bathroom where he threw up. Josiah waited for him, wet towels in hand. After a couple of hours of questioning, Orin called a halt. It was obvious that JD had been thoroughly and completely brainwashed. They had gotten enough from him to charge Terry Donagan with a whole list of crimes.
Buck was in the courtroom when Donagan was arraigned. He glared at the blond man as he was brought into the courtroom wearing the DPD jumpsuit and cuffs. His court-appointed attorney pled innocent for him and requested bail. The prosecutor reminded the judge that they were also looking into several murders that the suspect was thought to be involved in. He was ordered held until his trial.
The next few days were increasingly frustrating for the team. JD continued to ask for Terry, apparently thinking that he would be punished for what he'd told Travis, he recanted, denying that his `friend' had ever harmed him. He screamed furiously at Buck, demanding that he leave the room and that he hated him. He also vacillated in his response to Josiah. Sometimes, he seemed to need and want his approval and protection, other times, he equated the profiler with his former roommate and ordered him out of the room. Hoping to snap him out of his delusion, Chris brought Casey to the hospital. The young woman had been calling every few hours, begging to be allowed to see her boyfriend.
"He may say some pretty horrible things to you. Don't let him see that he's upsetting you. If he tells you to leave the room, just go or he will have a full blown screaming fit. The doctor is keeping him in restraints for his own good. Do you understand?" Josiah asked as they stood outside of JD's hospital room. She nodded and pulled her sweater more closely around her, suddenly nervous.
"What if he remembers me?"
"He might not admit it. Casey, the man who had him was brutal in the way he treated JD. He controlled every single aspect of his behavior, from what and when he ate to when he could use the bathroom. It is a very successful means of breaking a person to do whatever they're told."
"Will you go in with me?"
"Of course," Josiah said as he put his arm around the young college student.
JD looked warily at the pair who came into the room. At the moment, he was feeling sour toward the older man. The young woman was pretty, she smiled shyly at him and approached the bed. The man held her back, not letting her get close enough for him to reach her.
"Hello, JD. How are you?" Casey asked timidly.
"My name is Michael! Who are you?"
"My name is Casey Wells. Don't you remember me?"
"I don't know you. Did you come to ask me questions, too? That's all the others do when they come, ask questions and drink coffee. Don't you want to ask me what he did to me?"
"I know that he hurt you, JD. I know that he made you do things you didn't want to do."
"What would you know about it? You weren't there! You didn't see!"
Josiah moved to protect Casey and she shrugged him off. "I know I wasn't there. I wish I had been. I'm so sorry that he hurt you."
"You wouldn't have wanted to be there. He did terrible things to me! He put me in a hot bath! He put me in the tub filled with ice cubes! He put my head in a box! He beat me and shocked me and he he " JD's voice faltered as his eyes darted from side to side.
"What did he do to you, JD?" Josiah asked softly.
Instead of continuing, JD's face contorted with rage and he began screaming at them.
"Get out! Get out and leave me alone! You can't make me! I won't betray Terry! He loves me! He took care of me!"
Tucking his arm around Casey, Josiah steered her out of the room. When the door closed behind them, she went into Buck's arms, sobbing softly. Buck stroked the back of her head and whispered soothing sounds into her ear as he swayed from side to side. Ezra edged closer and took Casey, leading her to a chair and pressing a soda into her trembling hands.
"You almost had him, Josiah," Buck growled through clenched teeth. "He almost admitted all of it to you."
"Have patience, Buck. We'll get him back."
As he lay in the hospital bed, JD was afraid. He desperately wanted to believe that he was safe, that Terry wasn't going to come for him, but he just couldn't make himself believe. He had done everything he could to convince the others but they didn't believe him. He loved Terry. He loved Terry because if he didn't, he would be hurt again and he couldn't go through that again.
That night, as he tried to sleep, JD began to dream. In his dream, he was back in the apartment. Tossing his head from side to side, he remembered the beginning of his odyssey with Terry. He remembered the first whipping, with the belt. He remembered the first hot bath. The images came faster and faster until he remembered the night Terry had shown him the pictures.
It was the night after they went out to dinner together the first time. JD hoped that he could win his captor's trust and get away from him. When they returned to the apartment, he brought out the pictures, pictures of all the other Michael's who had disappointed him in the past, all of them dead and mutilated.
"Buck, help me," JD whimpered weakly as he tossed and pulled at the restraints.
Nathan raced across the hall to the waiting room and called softly, "Buck, get in here! He's asking for you!"
Both men hurried back into the room where JD was still caught in the throes of his dream. His feet scrabbled against the strap holding them in place as he whimpered.
"Buck, where are you?" JD mumbled.
"I'm here, kid. I'm right here," Buck said softly as he carded through the dark locks. "I'm right here, JD. Please come back to me."
The brown eyes popped open and looked around in confusion. JD continued to pull at the restraints as his memories reorganized themselves. He was still afraid of Terry, but for a different reason.
"Can you tell me your name?" Nathan asked softly.
"John Dunne, my name is John Dunne," JD whispered as he began to tremble. "Oh my God! Oh my God! He he I almost BUCK!"
Drawing his young friend tightly into his arms, Buck held him as they both cried. Nathan gently removed the restraints. The rest of the team slipped quietly into the room and surrounded the bed. No one touched JD as he clawed at Buck as if trying to crawl into his chest and hide. The doctor stuck his head in and Nathan waved him off.
Exhausted, drained, horrified and relieved, JD finally began to relax in Buck's arms. Someone pressed a handkerchief into his hand and he scrubbed at his face with it. When he finally lifted his eyes, Vin and Josiah were there. He uncurled his arm and reached out to them. Without looking, he extended the other hand and felt Chris and Ezra. A hand grasped his ankle gently and he knew it was Nathan. Closing his eyes, he drifted to sleep, feeling safe for the first time in a long time.
Although he remembered his friends, JD was still confused and frightened. He still wouldn't eat or go to the bathroom unless one of the others told him that it was alright. The profound shame he felt at having to talk to the counselor was evident in the rigid posture and stilted answers he gave. He still awoke from nightmares, screaming for Terry, thinking that the hospital was a dream and fearful of being punished again. After a couple of days, he was released from the hospital.
Buck was as nervous as a new father when his roommate arrived home. He was uneasy about the things that had happened to JD. The psychiatrist urged them all to treat JD as normally as they could, while listening if he felt the need to talk to any of them about what had happened. Nathan offered to stay with them for the first couple of days.
Fear washed over him as they pulled into the parking lot of the apartment building. JD pulled the jacket tightly around his ribs and pressed himself back against the seat. When the engine was shut off, he hesitantly reached for the door handle and got out. Nathan grabbed the bag of things from the hospital and moved to the front of the vehicle to wait for him. Swallowing hard, JD closed the door and started toward the medic.
"You okay, JD?" Nathan asked.
"Yeah, sure," JD answered.
They reached the door of the apartment and Nathan knocked before opening the door for JD to go inside. The younger man hesitantly stepped over the threshold and peered around the room. Buck stood, nervously, near the center of the room. He didn't know whether or not he should move toward his roommate or wait for him to make the first move.
"Go on, it's alright," Nathan softly urged. JD stepped toward the couch and watched Buck to see if it would be okay for him to sit there. Deep inside, he wanted to run to the older man and bury his face in the broad chest. He wanted to be held tightly until he got over being afraid. Conversely, he was trying very hard to `be a man' and not let on how scared he was.
"Come here, kid," Buck said. When JD took a step closer, he was enveloped in a warm embrace. Like waking from a bad dream, he felt all the fear and horror well up inside. Tears stung in his eyes as he burrowed his face into the soft tee shirt. He felt the large hands soothing up and down his back.
Nathan stood quietly as he watched the scene unfold in front of him. The psychiatrist had cautioned them that JD might not want to be touched, or might have strong adverse reactions to being touched. Here he was, clinging to and sobbing on his roommate. Without making a sound, Nathan slipped into the kitchen and started a pot of coffee.
When JD finally stopped the wrenching sobs and stopped tightening his grip as if he feared being torn away, Buck spoke softly, "I guess you're glad to be home, huh?"
It was a rough week. JD still awoke from nightmares screaming and had a strong aversion to bathing. He would fill the sink and wash himself with a cloth but he couldn't bring himself to step into the bathtub. He would sit on the couch, thirsty, but not get a drink unless Buck thought to offer him one. He couldn't sleep unless the bedroom door was open and the lights were on. He was easily startled, especially if touched from behind.
It took almost nine months for the case to come to trial. JD was still on light duty, restricted to the office. He had come a long way since being returned to his friends but he still had a ways to go. His weekly therapy sessions were helping him to deal with the panic attacks and almost phobic fear of bathing. As the trial got closer, he began having nightmares and breaking into cold sweats out of the blue.
He was cold. JD tucked his hands under his arms and pulled his knees up to his chest. He hated having to talk to the therapist. It wasn't doing any good, in his opinion. The therapist waited patiently for him to get settled before he began to speak.
"You need to tell me what you're feeling, JD. You have to testify against Terry in a few days. You must be feeling a little uncomfortable about it. How are things going for you at home?"
"It's fine. I'll be fine. I can handle the testifying," JD assured the man.
"So, what are you feeling, JD?"
"I'm cold. It's so cold in here."
The doctor got up and brought him a blanket. When he moved to place it over JD's shoulder, he launched himself out of the chair and across the room. With his back to the corner, he turned, shaking in abject terror. "Please don't! Please don't hurt me!"
In the observation room, Buck rocked toward the edge of his chair. He desperately wanted to go in and rescue JD but he had promised not to interfere. He wrapped his hands around the bar in front of him and clenched his teeth as he watched. The doctor returned to his seat, leaving the blanket on the chair.
"Let's talk about how you feel about Terry," he suggested.
"He tortured and brainwashed me."
"And are you sure you can testify about it with him in the room?"
"I'm not scared of him."
"That's good. You shouldn't be afraid of him. He's going away for a long, long time. Can we talk about something else? How do you feel about your teammates? How do you feel about Chris?"
"He's worried about me."
"He wants me to come back to work when I'm ready."
"What about the others?" the doctor asked as he made notes on his tablet.
"Nathan has been stopping by regularly to check on me. Vin, he just comes and takes me for rides in his jeep. He doesn't press me to talk about it anymore. Josiah keeps trying to trick me into talking about it. He tells me all these parables and true life stories. Ezra is okay. He doesn't want to talk about it, so he talks about other stuff. It's weird, he's been really supportive, like he knows what I'm thinking and feeling."
"Sounds like a good group of friends. What about your roommate?"
"Buck? He's been great. He's always there for me. Even after I almost shot him. He's always there when I have a nightmare. He reminds me "
"Reminds you of what, JD?"
"That it's alright to go to the bathroom or get a soda. He doesn't talk about it."
The rest of the session was pretty bland and Buck sort of tuned it out. He kept thinking about what JD had said, that he didn't talk about it. He didn't talk about it because he couldn't talk about it. He couldn't understand someone doing what had been done to JD. He just wasn't comfortable even thinking about it, there was no way he could talk about it.
"Mr. Wilmington, if I could have a word with you?" the therapist asked him after the session was over. JD was pacing anxiously in the waiting area. Seated in the same chair JD had bolted out of, Buck felt like a little boy sent to the principal's office.
"JD is in denial. He still hasn't fully processed what happened to him and his friends are sending him mixed signals. Each of you has taken a different approach to dealing with what happened. A couple of you are pressing him too hard while a couple are avoiding the situation altogether. He needs to talk about it, on his terms, but he needs to discuss what happened before he goes into the courtroom and has to face his attacker."
"So you're saying that we should all press him to talk about it? I would think that would be too much for him," Buck protested.
"Not press him, but let him know that it's alright to talk to you about it if he needs to talk."
When he left the doctor's office, JD was still behaving as if it was freezing in the office. Buck pulled off his windbreaker and wrapped it around the thin shoulders. Inside of the truck, he turned the heating vents to blow on JD and tried to warm him up. By the time they reached the loft, he was acting normally, or as normal as was `normal' for him considering what had happened. Once JD was settled on the couch, Buck took a deep breath and tried to make himself talk about what had happened.
"JD, I heard what you told the doctor, that I don't want to talk to you about what happened. That isn't exactly right. I do want to talk to you about it, I just it makes me I feel " he searched his brain for a word that would convey the shame and horror he felt.
"Ashamed of me? Because I let him break me? Disgusted with me? Is that how you're feeling, Buck?" JD shouted as he slowly came to his feet.
Shocked at how badly he had bungled the situation, Buck shook his head. "NO! JD it isn't that! I am ashamed, of me, of how I reacted. I wasn't there for you. You called out to me and I wasn't there."
"He beat me for it, you know. He beat me for calling for you. That was when he did it the first time. I couldn't even fight him. I wanted to fight him," JD's voice trailed off to a whisper. "So why did I say that I loved him? Why did I hold a gun on you?"
Buck cautiously approached his young friend and pulled him in close. He felt the tremors that wracked JD's body. "You did what you had to in order to survive. You said what you had to so that he wouldn't hurt you anymore. You're strong, JD, you made it."
As hard as it was for all of them, they each encouraged JD to discuss what had happened to him. JD was right, Vin knew how he felt. The sharpshooter confessed that he had been assaulted while in a juvenile facility in Texas. A guard had interrupted before he had been too badly hurt but he still knew the helpless, frustrated feeling that JD had inside. Ezra surprised JD when he admitted to being afraid that something like that could happen to him while he was undercover. It was the first time that the computer whiz realized that Ezra didn't have ice water in his veins.
The day of the hearing came and JD awoke feeling trepidation. His head ached and his stomach felt like it was full of razor blades. He stood in the bathroom trying to work up the nerve to step into the tub and take a shower. He hadn't told any of the others that he still felt dirty, in spite of the vigorous scrubbing he did with the washcloth. Finally, he gave up, washing in the sink again.
His teammates formed a protective wedge around him as they entered the court house. There was some disagreement at the security check point over whether or not they could carry their guns into the courtroom. Finally, they were allowed to keep them but only as long as they stayed in the witness room and didn't roam the halls. The prosecutor arrived and went over the case with them one more time.
"Are you going to be okay with this, JD?" she asked.
"Yes, Ma'am," he replied.
"Just remember to answer as succinctly as possible. Don't rush your answers and don't look at him except to identify him when I ask you to. Understand?"
"Yes, Ma'am," he answered again.
The bailiff opened the door and called for JD. His stomach clenched and his knees suddenly froze. Buck gave him a firm squeeze on the shoulder and nodded to him."You can do this, JD. You're a survivor."
Stepping into the courtroom, JD glanced around. The judge was watching him, his face carefully neutral. The jurors were watching him with a mix of curiosity and sympathy. The gallery was sparsely filled with people who looked vaguely disinterested. And then there was Donagan. His kidnapper sat at the defense table, looking calm and confident. He smiled and winked at JD.
The prosecutor began slowly, having JD explain what he did for a living and how long he had been doing it. Then she began to steer him toward the day he had been taken.
"Do you see the man in the courtroom?" she asked. Raising a trembling hand, JD indicated Terry at the other table.
Carefully, slowly and patiently, the prosecutor led JD through the events in the apartment. She asked him clarifying questions about the restraints, the box, the baths and finally, the robberies. JD answered her, forcing the words around the lump in his throat. He carefully avoided looking toward Terry as he spoke. She discussed the robberies, asking him to tell why he had done those things. JD explained that he was afraid of being punished. She questioned him about the bank robbery, about pointing the gun at Buck and JD began to slip.
"I didn't want to to hurt him. Buck is he's like a brother to me. But Terry said he'd punish me again. A bath " JD's throat closed and he began to shudder. "I couldn't go through that again. The bath the water I "
"That's okay, JD. You don't have to say any more. It's obvious that you were acting under duress," the prosecutor said.
The defense attorney sprang up and objected and the judge sustained the objection, instructing the jury to disregard the last remark. The prosecutor returned to her seat and the defense attorney began his carefully staged attack.
"Why didn't you run away? When you were in the check cashing place, why didn't you tell someone? You testified that he took you out to public restaurants to eat, why didn't you ever give any impression that you were being held against your will? Isn't it because you lied? You wanted to do those things, you enjoyed them, didn't you?" the attorney asked, giving JD a leering smile.
"He would have hurt me! He told me he would find me and hurt me again! He shocked me and he beat me! He said he would kill other people if I told them!" JD explained, risking a look toward his former captor to see how he was reacting to the testimony.
The defense attorney painted an ugly picture. He insinuated that JD had willingly gone into the apartment, that he voluntarily remained, that he enjoyed the rough treatment. It didn't take long to get JD upset to the point that he was shaking and sobbing between shouted denials. The prosecutor objected repeatedly.
Terry stared at JD, with that special glare that promised a wealth of pain and humiliation. He smiled when the young man broke down and began sobbing. The bailiff got up and grabbed a box of tissue from his table, crossing the courtroom to hand it to JD. All eyes in the room were on the dark haired young man. It was just exactly what he was waiting for.
Judge Morely calmly spoke to the shattered witness, asking him if he needed to take a break. The jurors were watching closely, horrified at the things the young man had endured. The bailiff walked slowly back toward his chair, blinking back a few tears of his own.
It happened so quickly that the witnesses wouldn't be able to say exactly what happened. One moment they were all focused on the misery of the witness and the next, they were screaming and trying to find shelter. The bailiff lay on the marble tiles, his head disfigured by the 357 round that burst into his skull. The prosecutor stood, only to be propelled backward as a bullet hit her in the chest.
It was like slow motion. JD heard the bailiff's soft gasp as the gun cleared the holster. He saw the spray of blood that ended the life of the divorced, middle aged man. Over the roar in his ears, he heard the cries of the panicked jurors and spectators.
In the witness room, six men's eyes met at the first shot. Six guns cleared leather as they rose. They split in two groups, one for the door into the courtroom, one into the hall to come in from the other side. Buck, Chris and Vin surrounded the door just as the second shot sounded.
The judge rose, shouting for order over the pandemonium that erupted in the courtroom. A bullet spun him around, sending him into the wall behind his raised desk. In spite of the numbness in his arm, he hit the button for the silent alarm.
JD could feel every molecule of air that his lungs took in as he breathed. He dropped the wad of wet tissue and reached for his gun. His fingertips registered the texture of his pants leg, the cool satin of the liner of his jacket, the warm, smooth leather of his holster and finally, the warm, rough pattern of the grip of his Glock. The weapon slid easily into his hand as he focused on his target. His left hand came around slowly, to support and steady his right as he took aim. The trigger was smooth as his index finger came to rest against it. Exerting only the precise amount of pressure, he squeezed.
Buck opened the door and leaned against the door facing after Chris slipped past him in a crouched position. Vin's arm appeared in his peripheral view, gun drawn. Judge Morely's body flew in a graceful arch to strike the wall and slid down, pain and surprise controlling his features. The jurors were stampeding toward the jury room, screaming and pushing to get away. The rear doors of the courtroom opened and the spectators rushed toward it, skidding to a stop at the three guns pointed their way.
"Down!" Josiah yelled as soon as he saw the dozen faces looking back at him. Immediately, bodies went prone on the floor.
The explosion of gunfire was so close that it almost sounded like one shot. Terry Donagan's body jerked and spun as it fell against the low wall at his back. The bailiff's gun slipped from his hand and spiraled to the floor, striking barrel first and bouncing before coming to rest several inches away. The wooden chair screeched as it moved against the tiled floor, which was soon covered by a lifeless corpse.
In spite of the screams of the terrified witnesses, all JD could hear was silence. His focus remained on the body as it seemed to float to the floor. He let his eyes focus briefly on the sight at the end of the barrel when the body disappeared behind the solid oak table. Lowering the barrel slightly, he picked up the target as it came to rest on the floor.
Buck holstered his weapon and started toward the witness stand. Vin caught him, holding him back for a moment. They both saw the glazed look in JD's eyes and realized that he could easily shoot one of them.
"JD, put the gun down," Chris called calmly as he watched the young agent. "It's all over. Put it down."
Immediately, there were other sounds. People were screaming. A cold breeze brushed through his soul and JD shuddered. The gun was suddenly heavy in his hands and he let it down against the front of the witness stand. Sweat poured from his body as his vision blurred.
"Go!" Chris said urgently as he pushed Buck. The other half of the team raced up the center aisle, guns still trained on the very dead body on the floor.
With his outstretched hand, Buck gently grasped the gun and pointed it toward the floor. It slid easily from JD's hands and he tucked it into the back of his pants. His other arm went around the trembling body, drawing it toward him. He felt JD go limp and went to his knees to keep him in the chair. Vin and Chris rushed to check on the judge.
A familiar scent teased and JD wrinkled his nose. He felt incredibly weak for some reason. His right hand was warmer than his left. Rolling to his right side, he felt a breeze at his back and went still. "Aw hell," he murmured into the pillow as he reached back to drag the blanket across his bare backside.
"Hey Kid, it's about time you woke up," Buck said softly.
"What am I doing here?"
"Well, you were kind of in shock after what happened in the courtroom. Nathan thought you should be checked out."
"Courtroom? What happened ?" JD started to ask. It all came back to him in a rush, the bailiff, the prosecutor, the judge, and then the startlingly loud rapport of seven guns in the enclosed space. "Did we get him?"
"Seven times over, we got him. He was toasting marshmallows in hell before he hit the floor," Buck said softly. "Are you okay with that?"
"Got what he deserved," JD mumbled thickly as he drifted into a deep, healing sleep.
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