Characters: Vin, Chris, rest of the 7, Ella Gains L and Guest Appearance - Martin Fitzgerald & Danny Taylor from Without A Trace
Beta - Thanks to Beta Linda
Warning: there is beatings of a prisoner
"Something feels wrong about this bust," Josiah Sanchez said as Team Seven suited up in Kevlar vests and checked weapons and the ear buds in their ears.
"It did set up fast. Maybe just our luck for once," JD Dunne replied as he tested his surveillance cameras and headsets a last time.
"Be on your toes boys. Be prepared for anything to happen. JD, stick with the SUV until the end, unless you're needed. Vin, you ready?" Chris Larabee, senior agent in charge of Team Seven asked as he shot a look at Vin Tanner, their sharpshooter, and one of his younger brothers.
"Ready as I've ever been. See you boys later," Vin said as he slipped out of the darkened SUV and disappeared into the cool night's blackness.
In less than ten minutes they all heard clicks in their ear from Vin, in place and set up.
"Let's go. Watch your backs," Chris said, and four men slipped into the darkness. JD watched from the inside of the blacked-out SUV. The night vision screens picked up the men as they made their way to the warehouse. The eerie green coloring made them look strange. One tall figure paused and looked back then lifted a hand into a one fingered salute. JD grinned; leave it to his roommate, Buck Wilmington, to do something so childish. The forms disappeared into the building and his gaze went to the camera that pointed down the street, watching for the vehicle bringing the drug dealer to the meeting.
Abruptly JD stiffened. Two dark SUVs appeared, one slowed to a stop, the other edged down the alley where Vin had gone. He watched as figures jumped from the vehicles and move into hidden areas around the building. Some sneaking into the building.
Clicking his earpiece he spoke quietly into the mouthpiece. "Visual on at least 10 men. Back of the building and on the left. Staying in shadows."
"Damn, thanks Kid," Chris acknowledged.
A long dark car pulled up, stopped. Two figures stepped out and walked into the building. Two others waited beside the car. Moments later Ezra Standish's borrowed BMW appeared and parked beside the first car. The two waiting men met Ezra.
Clicks responded to JD's whispered words as he bent closer to the screens, trying to watch where the outside men were. JD had a bad feeling about what was going on and called for backup, hoping they'd get there before something happened.
"ATF Freeze!" JD heard over his headset. "Hell!" he exclaimed as two more SUVs came in
lights on. Men poured from the vehicles as gunfire broke out in the warehouse.
"Trap! Get out of there now. Help's on the way," JD frantically called over his mic as the shooting intensified inside. He watched as men ran from the building, running a zigzag course, some fired behind them as they raced away. The men closest to the building's large doors started to fall and JD breathed a small sigh of relief. From his SUVtage point in the rafters, Vin's shots never missed the mark.
Team Three and Four pulled up. Jumping out of their rigs, they joined the firefight. Leaving the camera's rolling, JD left the SUV and hurried the half block to be on hand if they needed him.
The gunfire had lessened and when JD stopped beside another agent it stopped altogether. As soon as the "All clear" came, JD rushed inside noticing the overhead lights blinking on. Bodies lay sprawled across the concrete floor, several not moving. JD saw Nathan Jackson, the team's EMT kneeling beside a long figure and he ran to Nathan's side, fear rising in him. "Buck?" He said seeing his partner laying still.
"He's alright JD. It's just a graze on his hard head. He'll have a headache for awhile." Nathan told him.
Just then Buck opened his eyes and a smile crossed his pale face as he looked up at JD. "I'm fine Kid. Like Nate said, a headache. Where's Chris and the others?"
Knowing Buck was distracting him as Nathan wrapped a bandage around his dark head; JD looked around for the rest of the team.
Ezra sat on the floor as Josiah wrapped a bandage around his left arm. Chris stood several yards away watching as other ATF agents gathered the drug dealers who surrendered and handcuffed them. His head cocked a little as if he was listening to someone. Blood trailed down the side of his face from a graze above his temple, but he looked all right. JD glanced up, wondering if Vin had left. He caught sight of a shadow opening the door to the outside fire escape, located at the back of the building, the only safe way down from the rafters for Vin.
JD turned back to Buck who cautiously sat up and told him, "They're all here, it looks like a few scrapes. Everyone is fine." JD grinned.
Buck let JD help him to his feet then clapped a big hand on JD's shoulder. "Good day then. What are you doing here?"
Unexpectedly Chris took off running, passing them without stopping. He barely acknowledged them; his gaze fixed on the back door. JD looked at Buck and Nathan, "Should I go with him?"
"Stay put," Buck ordered, with a nod at Nathan they sprinted after Chris. "Let's see what Chris is in such a hurry about." Buck said, but moments later he abruptly slowed to a walk as pain slammed into his head.
"Buck?" Nathan looked over at him as he walked beside him.
Buck's hand brushed across the bandage. "I'm fine, the headache hit me."
JD remembered the SUV going into the alley and called out, "Buck! Wait! A SUV went back there." He drew his gun and raced to where Buck and Nathan waited for him. Hearing more footsteps, the three
glanced back. Ezra and Josiah were jogging to catch up with them.
Together the five hurried to the back of the building and pushed through the wide door. JD barreled into the back of Nathan when the tall black man stopped. JD was knocked back into Josiah who grabbed him to keep him from falling. "Thanks, Josiah," JD said as he looked around the empty space. "Where are…." He didn't see Chris or Vin and the SUV was gone.
Ezra hurried to the steep steps leading to the small upper door Vin used to get into the building. A rifle lay abandoned against the stairs.
JD grabbed the small flashlight he always carried with him when they went on a night bust, and flicked it on, aiming the beam at the rifle and steps.
Everyone knew the rifle; Vin cleaned and took care of it enough times in the office, they easily recognized it. The beam rose, moving up and down the steps before dropping to the ground at the bottom. Scuff marks showed in the dirt accumulated below their feet and around the steps. They spotted what looked like a trail; something had been dragged ten to fifteen feet before it disappeared in the alley.
Nathan took the flashlight from JD's shaking hand and aimed it at the ground around them. Footprints showed on each side of the door they'd come through. In their rush outside, they'd obliterated Chris's footprints. One area was scuffed up as if there had been a fight. A handprint that became a drag line before it disappeared in the light beam.
Four men began to search the area as JD ran back to the surveillance SUV to see if any of the videos picked up anything.
Josiah took charge of Vin's rifle as the others searched the alley as best they could with the small flashlight. Nathan found a dead man stuffed behind a dumpster several feet from the overhead landing fronting the upper door. They thought, at least Vin managed to take out one of his attackers. They found a smashed flashlight, and ID'd it as the one Chris had carried. After another fifteen minutes of searching, with the help of team members from Team 3 and 4 and more flashlights, the men gave up. All the agents admitted the whole thing felt like a setup. They figured the bust happened only because someone wanted to kidnap Chris and Vin for an unknown reason. There wasn't enough evidence go on, nothing to indicate how to find the two missing men.
Vin's rifle was handed over to the Denver police who took the prisoners into custody, to be checked for fingerprints. Josiah made sure the police knew he would pick it up in the morning, and he'd taken the names of those officers. None of the agents trusted that the rifle wouldn't disappear.
The four men made their way out of the warehouse and to the SUV. After a short stop at the hospital to have Buck and Ezra checked out, they headed for the office. None of them wanted to talk to AD Travis, but they walked to his office together. JD carried the surveillance tapes in his hand.
Vin watched from the catwalk as the gunfire finally slacked off. Adrenalin raced through him as he looked for his teammates again. He had protected them from the onslaught of the many gunrunners who swarmed into the building. Seeing the cluster of ATF jackets below, he spotted Nathan hurrying to Buck's side while Josiah knelt beside Ezra. Noting Ezra sitting up and talking to Josiah, and the smile crossing Nathan's, face Vin rose. He knew the two would be all right. He sent a thought to Chris standing between his downed men, **Comin down** he said. He thought he saw Chris' head nod then he walked to the outer door.
Shoving the door open he slung his rifle over his shoulder. He wasn't prepared for the men waiting on the small landing for him.
A short, vicious fight occurred as Vin fought to get away from the men. Blows landed on the
attacking bodies. He hit one man so hard the guy flew backwards and over the railing, falling to the ground. Before Vin could knock another man over the railing, his arms were grabbed and a sharp pain lanced into the side of his neck. His limbs collapsed as numbness shocked his system.
**Chris** he called out as he fell. He vaguely felt several blows to his body then he was hauled down the steps, his legs banging on each one. Someone jerked his rifle off his back as they pulled him to a dark SUV parked several feet from the bottom of the stairs. The last thing he remembered seeing when he tumbled into the SUV was men taking stands on each side of the exit door. Blackness overtook him when his head connected with something hard.
Chris heard Vin's cry and ran across the warehouse to the door. Bursting outside hands grabbed him as the door closed soundlessly. His green-eyed gaze took in the SUV ten feet in front of him. He could make out Vin's crumbled form inside the open door.
He felt a pain near his neck as he fought the men who grabbed him, only to collapse boneless into their hands a moment later. They tossed him into the SUV landing on top of Vin and the door slammed closed. The lurch of the SUV rolled him off Vin and into the metal side. With a last narrow glance towards Vin blackness engulfed him.
Pain washed over him when Vin tried to move, to relax his arms. He raised his head and tried to open his eyes. Something pressed over his eyes and mouth. He struggled to pull his arms to his face as goose bumps rose on him. His wrists felt like they were tied up and he stopped squirming. ‘What the hell?' he thought as he attempted to figure out what happened.
Shivering he moved his legs and realized he had no boots or socks on, his feet were cold. Whatever he stood on, felt odd under his bare feet. Slowly he moved his head, realizing there was some sort of pads over his eyes with something tied over them. A piece of what felt like duct tape covered his mouth. Panic began to take over and he pulled on his arms, ignoring the pain shooting through his ribs as he strained to pull them down.
Finally, Vin stopped and stilled, breathing hard through his nose. He couldn't take a deep breath, he felt as if he was suffocating. Shaking with cold he forced himself to calm down and figure out where he was. He then realized that it was grass under his feet, and his fingers were touching rough bark to which his wrists were tied to above his head and thought it was a thick branch. He couldn't bring his hands together, the ropes around his wrists held them too far apart. And last, he was naked to his waist, which made him shiver harder.
**Oh God Chris… What happened? Where am I?** He thought as he pulled on his wrists trying to free himself again.
A muffled noise nearby made him freeze in place and cock his head. Another noise, like a moan reached his ears. Unable to call out he stayed still and listened as more noises reached him. The thick branch holding him moved slightly against his bound wrists and he cocked his head to where the noise came from. **Who's there?** he thought, knowing there wouldn't be an answer.
Chris pushed his way through the blackness surrounding him and tried to open his eyes. He shivered with cold and couldn't stop trembling. His eyes refused to open and found he couldn't shift his arms when he made an effort to move his hands. Working his fingers he found rope wrapped around his wrists, holding his arms above his head and against something rough. He dug his fingers into the roughness and realized it was tree bark. He couldn't touch one hand to the other the way they were tied. Also he was barefooted and half naked; something covered his eyes and mouth.
**What the hell.** he thought.
Rising his head Chris turned it back and forth listening, he could have sworn he'd heard Vin calling to him.
**Vin? Where are you?**
**Don't know. Tied to a tree** Vin said in his head and shuffled his feet in the grass.
Chris heard the noise to his left and responded, **On my left. You okay?**
**Cold, hungry, sore.**
Vin tried to smile when he heard the quicksilver laugh in his head, **You're always hungry brother. Sorry I know you didn't eat for awhile. What happened?**
**Not sure. Came out the door and got attacked. Knocked one over the edge but they injected me with something. Last I know got thrown in a rig. You?**
**Heard you, got grabbed outside the lower door and injected too. They dumped me in on you and took off. Wonder how long we've been here.**
**Not sure. Cold enough to still be night I think. Or another night.** Vin thought as he shivered.
Quiet descended on the brother's for several hours, then they heard the noise of a rig coming towards them and both men stiffened. Both of their heads tilted slightly to listen.
The SUV pulled to a stop twenty feet from the huge old maple tree whose thick, twisted branches shaded twenty to forty feet of the grassy ground around it. Other trees from aspen to fir, to maple and pine surrounded the massive tree, leaving a small area open around the majestic maple. The maple was efficiently hidden under the canopy of the other trees. Not that anyone would notice it, if they even knew of its existence, hidden in the far corner of Chris's property.
As the SUV sat there, the dark-haired woman inside gazed lustfully at the two half naked figures
decorating one of the maple's lower branches. Licking her lips, she looked her fill appreciating the taunt bodies hanging there, unable to move. She smiled; her careful plans worked out better than she'd intended. She wanted Vin Tanner, her prisoner. Her dark eyes tracked to the long-haired man, noting bruises on his back and knew there were more on his back. She gazed at the broad shoulders and narrow waist, the long, blond streaked brown hair trailed over his shoulders. She could count his ribs and thought he looked a bit thin.
Licking her lips again she watched him for long moments. Tanner had been taken to use, to force her lover to come to her. As it happened, Chris came running out the door and right into her men's hands as she waited in the vehicle.
She laughed out loud and the two men in the SUV stirred at the cruelty in it. Pushing the door open she stepped out of the vehicle and with a nod to her bodyguards headed for the two men. She didn't pay any attention as the Clarkson brothers pulled on gloves, over brass knuckles and followed her. A rubber bat on a leather loop hung from one man's belt.
Ella Gains, AKA Elizabeth Grant, walked slowly around her captives. She grinned, running long, red painted fingernails over Tanner's chest and back as she circled around him. She enjoyed feeling him trying to draw away from her touch.
Vin sucked in a deep breath as the tape was ripped off his mouth. His skin crawled as a light hand ran over his chest then slid up to cup his chin. With a jerk he pulled his face away from the warm hand, not wanting the touch.
The hand fell away for a moment then came back and gripped his jaw tight enough that he couldn't pull away. A voice hissed close to his ear, "Kiss me!"
Vin jerked his head back as hard as he could, and felt the hand fall away. "No," he rasped, his voice barely a whisper.
"You will, or else …" He heard as the hands traveled over his chest and belly, dipping to his waist. Vin shuffled his feet as he shifted to move away from the invading hands. "No!" he gasped and stiffened as the hands dropped lower. With all his strength he lashed out with his foot. It connected with something soft, ripping the hands from him. A loud cry of pain rang out from the woman.
His head was grabbed from behind. Fingers fisted into his long hair wrenched his head back as far as it could go, baring his throat to anyone in front of him. Struggling, Vin tried to kick backwards with his feet, taking all his weight on his bound wrists.
Ella watched as Tanner twisted, feet lashing out to kick Simon but unable to reach the large man. With a motion to Alfred, Simon's brother, she watch the muscular man step forward. With a powerful swing, he brought the rubber bat down, catching the hanging man's right thigh as he kicked out again.
The sudden pain in his upper thigh ricocheted into Vin's hip and lower back. He gasped from the intense pain and his leg dropped numbly from the swing he'd started. With his head still held immobile he shifted his weight to his numb right leg. He hoped it would hold as he kicked out with his left leg. It didn't hold his weight and a moment later pain erupted in his left thigh. A cry of pain escaped from his tightly closed lips as his leg went numb. He hung by his wrists, his head still in a tight grip.
Cold hands rested on his chest and he shuddered in revulsion as they rubbed over him. The hateful voice demanded, "Kiss me!"
"NO!" Vin snarled through gritted teeth. His head was pressed forward and the strong hands held it in place. Soft hands ran over him and moved up his chest to cup his face. They gripped his cheeks, then the woman's lips crushed down on his. He kept his lips tightly closed as he tried to turn his head away, only to have the person holding his head still, snarl and grip his hair tighter.
Her hands released his face and ran over him as he twisted his body to get free. A blow across his shoulders made him suck in his breath from the pain. Another blow just below his shoulder blades wrenched a moan from him. Another strike to his lower back had him arching forward and a strangled scream sounded in the small clearing. The hands on his chest roved over him as he struggled to overcome the pain rolling through him. The hands in his hair jerked his head up and he gasped as the voice again insisted, "Kiss me!"
"Go ta hell," Vin gasped, wishing he had the freedom to fight her. Gathering what little moisture left in his mouth he spit at the woman.
"Bastard! You'll pay for this!" Ella hissed as she wiped the spittle off the side of her face. Her fingers curled into claws and she raked sharp fingernails down the tied man's chest from his collarbone to waist. Seeing a grimace cross the handsome face, she moved close to him and licked the taunt neck, feeling a shiver go through Tanner.
Stepping back she nodded to Simon and Alfred. Alfred stepped forward as Simon released Vin's head, he stepped a bit closer to the hanging man and buried his fist in Vin's left side. Alfred struck him on the other side.
Vin groaned as the fists smashed into him, the pain took his breath away. A hard blow to his lower back made him scream. His head fell forward as deep blackness overtook him.
Ella waved her men off when Tanner went limp. Stepping to Vin, she ran her fingers over his face and lips, then down his chest, smearing the thin trails of blood her fingernails had left. She felt his heartbeat as she played with his chest then moved her hand to his crotch. He couldn't feel her but she didn't care. She enjoyed handling him, or any man. Her gaze went to Chris Larabee who stood, tied barely six feet away. She smiled as she gazed at him, knowing he'd been listening. She saw blood making trails down his arms from his bloody wrists. She knew he'd been fighting to get free.
Her smile widened as she patted Vin and murmured, "Next time you WILL do as I say." Flipping her head to get her hair away from her face, she strolled over the grass to where Chris hung. Her smile softened as she looked at him.
Chris struggled to contact his brother. Through their connection, he felt panic then intense pain. He was frustrated and helpless to do anything but listen. What? Could that be a woman's voice? He couldn't be sure; it was a whisper of sound. Hearing Vin's scream of pain, he fought harder to free himself. But it just tore his wrists more. They were on fire, with blood trickling down his arms. Another scream of pain sounded and then quiet descended. He froze listening. He hoped and thought, ‘Vin please be alive.'
Ella floated to Chris, her smile in place. She nodded at Alfred and pointed at his legs. Her hand rubbed her stomach where Tanner's foot had struck her. She watched the big man step forward then struck Chris first on one thigh then the other one.
Chris arched in pain and moaned from the blows as his legs went numb. The tape across his mouth prevented him from crying out. Through the wave of pain he felt warm hands caressing him from his waist to his neck. The tape was ripped from his mouth. Hard lips attacked his.
Chris jerked his head away and wiped his mouth on the side of his up-raised arm. Fingers curled into his hair and pulled his head down. A warm, female figure plastered herself against him her breasts pressing against him felt like heated mounds on his chest. Once more lips crushed against his. Unable to kick he did the next best thing. He bit down on the tongue assaulting his mouth. A hard hand crashed against his ear. The body jumped back when he unclenched his teeth. Shaking his head over the ringing in his ear, Chris tried to focus on the noises around him.
An unexpected pain across his back and shoulders pulled a strangled cry of surprise from him, arching his back he moved a half step forward on numb legs. A fist hit him in his side. The warm hands were there again, rubbing circles on his chest, a calming motion that he ignored.
Ella whispered, "Kiss me my Love." Her hands played over him.
"Go ta hell bitch," Chris replied as he twisted trying to get free of the woman as pain washed through him.
"Don't say that Love. I know it's just for show. But he can't hear you. You see, he's sort of asleep." Chris heard a giggle. The sultry voice continued. "Now there's no reason for you to hide from me. Kiss me."
"Sick bitch. I'll kill you."
Ella laughed. "No sweetheart. You love me. You'd never hurt me." She wrapped her arms around him holding him close against her. Hands gripped his head and held it still while kisses covered his face.
Baring his teeth, he prepared to bite her as the kisses continued.
Plastered against Chris, Ella ran her hands over his ribs and back, relishing their smoothness. Then she buried them under the waistband of his pants. She grinned as he made an effort to twist away from her. "You are mine my Love. No one else can have you. We'll be happy together for the rest of our lives."
‘Bitch," Chris snarled. Feeling the side of her head against his, he slowly turned his head. When he felt the hands on his head loosen, Chris buried his nose in her hair, nuzzling against her head. His teeth latched on the ear he felt under her hair.
A high pitched scream of pain came from the woman as she froze in place. Her fingernails raked up his sides before she began to struggle to break free.
Simon released Chris's head and stepped back. His brother Alfred moved in, swinging the bat he carried across Chris's back.
Chris released the ear he'd clamped strong teeth on. His scream of pain rang around the little clearing. Ella stepped back. Her hand reached instantly to her bloody, torn ear. With a vicious nod she stepped back. Simon and Alfred moved in taking turns striking Chris. He'd been limp for several moments before she called for them to stop.
She ran her hand over Chris's face. "You are mine. I can do anything I want to you whenever I want. And to Tanner too. You are both mine, to control and do anything I want to you." Ella said, her deranged thoughts working overtime. She planted a kiss on his slack lips before she turned towards the van.
"I think I need a doctor to examine me," She stated, cradling her damaged ear. Minutes later the van left and silence fell over the clearing.
Eighteen hundred miles away, two young men wearily made their way to the FBI's Missing Person's Bureau bullpen. They carried steaming cups of coffee carefully in their hands.
"What a case! I'll be happy to get the paperwork done so I can go home and sleep for twenty four hours." Danny Taylor commented taking a sip of his hot coffee.
"You and me both. My bed's been calling me for hours," Martin Fitzgerald replied as they pushed through the glass door.
"6 AM already? Damn. Feels like it should be 6 PM. Well, maybe in an hour we can get out of here. Hey Jack, we do get the rest of the weekend off don't we?" Danny asked of their dark-haired boss as he gathered paperwork from the conference table.
"Yeah, you even get Monday off." Jack Malone answered with a grin. "So the faster you get your reports finished and turned in, the quicker you can get out of here."
"Good …" Martin said as he turned towards his desk then abruptly dropped to his knees, landing hard on the floor. His cup of coffee flew out of his hand and splattered across the desk and floor. A cry of pain rang through the bullpen as he grabbed at his back. He wrapped his arms tightly around his abdomen as he collapsed on the floor gasping in agony.
For an instant Danny and Jack stared at Martin in shock. Danny slammed his coffee cup down and dropped to Martin's side. He reached out to him, unsure what to do, where to touch.
"I'll call 911." Jack said reaching for the closest phone.
"N … No …" Martin gasped shaking as pain continued to wash over him.
"Martin, you need help," exclaimed Danny, touching a shaking shoulder.
"Not … not … me… Vin or Chris … AARRGGHHAA!" Martin cried out as he fought to get control over the pain racing through him. His face twisted in agony as he gasped for breath.
Jack knelt beside his youngest agent, uncertain whether to touch him or wait. Danny watched Martin writhe in pain. He gently gathered his friend into his arms when he saw tears start to roll down Martin's face.
"It's OK. It's okay Martin," he muttered against his teammate's head that pressed against his shoulder.
"Oh … God …" Martin moaned as the pain intensified across his back. His tears soaked into Danny's shoulder.
Danny looked helplessly across his partners shaking body to his boss.
For a moment Jack looked at the crumbled figure in Danny's arms, his eyes rose and he saw the scared look on Danny's face. He felt as helpless as Taylor, unable to do anything for Martin. He swept his gaze around the room and stopped on Martin's jacket hanging on the chair beside him. A thought ran through his head and he grabbed it. Searching the pockets, he found Martin's cell phone and flipped it open. Glancing through the names and numbers stored there, Jack spotted ‘B Wilmington' and pressed the number. Rising from the floor he moved away from where Danny held Martin. Keeping his gaze locked on Martin's writhing figure he almost hung up and dialed another number after the fourth ring.
"Wilmington, this better be good news." Just as Jack moved to hang up someone answered.
"Buck? This is Jack Malone …"
"Malone? Umm … As in New York City's Agent Malone?" Buck answered.
"Yes. Something's wrong with Martin Fitzgerald." Jack paused a moment, not sure what to say. A strangled cry from Martin though spurred him on as he watched the young man collapsed in Danny's arms, tremors running through his body. At least the moaning stopped.
"Malone. You there? What happened?"
"Has something happened to Vin or Chris?"
For several seconds nothing but the silence of space came through the line then Jack heard a deep sigh. "Yes. Someone's taken them. We're trying to find them. We don't know who or why, or even where they are. What's wrong with Martin?"
"He just collapsed in terrible pain, told us it's from his brothers."
"Aw shit!" He heard. "We forgot about Martin and his brothers' connection! Damn! I … we … Oh hell Jack, I hope he'll be all right."
"Is there anything we can do to help?"
"Take care of Martin. We're working on finding Chris and Vin."
"We will. Can you tell me anything that happened so I can tell Martin?" Jack asked as he watched Martin again stiffen in pain.
"Ahh, well, we have a partial ID on the license and van. Ezra and JD are working to trace it. But … Had a bust, Vin went down the outside stairs. They took him there. Found his rifle and a dead guy. Chris was grabbed as he went out the door to help Vin, we think. The van disappeared before we could get to them. Luckily, JD's surveillance cameras picked up the van going in and out of the alley. We're conducting interviews of the men we caught. So far, they aren't talking."
"I'm sure you'll find something, though right now it doesn't sound too good. If you need anything or if we can help in anyway …" Jack said as he ran his hand through his dark hair.
"Is Martin all right now?"
Jack shot a look at Martin, still writing in pain, his hands buried in Danny's shirt. His face pressed against his partner's shoulder. Low moans escaped his lips.
"No. Not sure what's happening with him. He seemed all right for a couple of minutes but now he's in pain again. Don't know what to do for him."
"I don't either. At least we know they're alive since he's having this kind of reaction," Buck sadly said. He wondered what his teammates were going through causing Martin so much pain it reached over a thousand miles.
Without warning, Martin arched away from Danny, a cry of pain echoed around the room. As fast as it happened, it ended. Martin collapsed unconscious against Danny.
"Martin!" Jack and Danny exclaimed. Jack stepped to his young agents' side as Danny gathered the limp form tighter into his arms.
"Jack! Jack what's happening?" Buck yelled into the phone.
"Sorry Buck. He collapsed, unconscious. I think we need to call an ambulance for him, have him examined," Jack worried.
"Agent Malone, this is Nathan Jackson. If he's out due to something that happened to Vin or Chris, give him a couple of minutes. If he doesn't wake up, then get him to a hospital. But I think he will be okay in a few minutes. As long as he's breathing easily, let him relax."
"Thanks Nathan. We'll do that. Would someone keep in touch with us? I know Martin is going to need the information." After receiving reassurance and giving his, Jack thanked them and hung up the phone.
As Jack turned back to Martin and Danny, co-agent Vivian Johnson walked in and stopped short. A look of horror crossed her face.
"What happened?" She asked, as she quickly crossed to their sides.
"It'll be all right, Viv. Martin lost consciousness. It's the connection to his brothers. Vin and Chris are missing. Agent Jackson said Martin should be fine shortly." Jack told her, his eyes still focused on Martin.
For a couple of minutes, the concerned agents were silent. Their eyes watched Martin cradled in Danny's arms. Martin's eyes began to flutter, and a moment later they opened. His friends could see the confusion in the blue orbs.
Martin took a deep breath and wondered why he lay on the floor with Danny. Bewildered, he looked up at his boss and Vivian, and saw the worried looks on their faces. The memory of pain and panic flowed through his head. A tremor went through him as color leached once more from his face.
"Come on Fitz, don't pass out on me again," Danny's calm voice said.
"Up …" Martin rasped. He struggled to rise and he felt his face change, as embarrassment flooded through him.
Danny gripped Martins arm, worried Martin would fall, as he stood slightly swaying.
"Martin are you all right?" Vivian asked, touching his arm.
"Yes … No… I don't know," Martin looked in confusion at the woman.
Martin stared at Vivian for a moment; she had taken Danny and him under her wing. She held a place like a surrogate mother to them. Viv mothered them as much as their mother's once had. He saw nothing but concern written all over her dark face.
"What happened?" She gently asked. She observed the young, badly shaken teammate looking at her.
Martin's blue eyes closed a moment then opened wide. She could see the pain swirling in them.
"Something's happened to Vin and Chris," his hand went to his back then ribs. "I think someone was beating them. Vin then Chris. I could … I … The pain … So bad. I couldn't see anything… As if it is night, very black, no stars... I don't know where they are… But they're together though, wherever they are."
Danny nudged Martin and he stepped over to a chair and sat down. He ran his shaking hands over his face and head.
"Martin," Jack waited until the young man's head rose and his gaze turned to him. "Your brothers' were taken …" He went on to explain what he'd learned from Buck. They all saw Martin's face pale even more, if possible.
"I have to go," Martin stated when Jack finished talking.
"Yes," Jack agreed placing his hand on Martin's shoulder. "You and Danny. I don't want you going alone," he said glancing at Danny staring at him in surprise. "I'll check for flights to Denver, you two need to get that report done though. It has to be finished before you go anywhere."
Martin nodded. "Thanks, Jack. I'll get right to it." Taking a deep breath he glanced at his partner. "Thanks, Danny. Sorry about that," he said nodding to Danny's damp shoulder.
Danny grinned. "I'm washable. Shall we get this mess cleaned up and get to work so we can leave?"
Martin's face flushed as he realized where his coffee had ended; the flush deepened when Vivian handed him a wad of paper towels.
"Clean it up and I'll get you another cup." She turned away before Martin could say anything.
An hour and a half later, the two agents headed to their apartments to pack for the trip. An hour later, Jack picked them both up and drove to the airport. Jack managed to get them on an 11AM flight. The security chief met them at the gate, since they were FBI agents, and quickly passed them through security. He cleared them to take their revolvers on board.
Hours later the two agents made their way through the Denver International terminal towards the baggage claim area. Martin felt so tired he could barely keep his eyes open. He envied Danny who had slept during the whole flight, waking only long enough to eat the meal that had been served. Martin pulled his jacket tighter around him and shook his head to clear cobwebs. He needed to concentrate on getting them to Chris's ranch. He planned to call Buck as soon as they got a rental car and left the airport. Shivering, he wondered why he was so cold. Per the pilot, as they began the landing procedure, it was 60 degrees outside. He hoped he wasn't getting a cold.
A large man placed his hand on Martin's shoulder. He jumped in surprise, glanced up then smiled at Josiah.
"Josiah! What are you doing here?"
Josiah smiled at Martin, the short haired version of Vin. He noticed how tired and pale the younger man looked. "Heard you and Danny had a flight from New York and I came to pick you both up. Hey Danny, nice to see you again, it's been awhile." Josiah said and stuck his hand out to the tall Latino agent.
Danny shook hands with Josiah as they headed toward the baggage claim area.
"Is there anything more on Vin and Chris?" Martin asked, as they watched suitcases and bags slide down the chute to the turnstile.
"We found the van they used, parked behind the construction site of a new mall. Found a little blood from Chris in the back. Yes, it has been verified as Chris's. AD Travis had it rushed through forensic. One odd thing though. The rear license plate is missing. We don't know if it's lost or someone switched it to another vehicle. The police and our agents are on the lookout for a vehicle with the matching license number. Of course, the van is stolen." Josiah waited while the young men grabbed their bags, showed their claim tickets and then turned to him. They followed Josiah towards the doors and outside.
Josiah led them to the short term parking area. A few minutes later they were in his Suburban and headed out of the airport.
The sky darkened and lightning started to flash. Barely clearing the airport parking lots, the rain started to fall. Martin looked at the ATF agent as a shiver shook him again. "Anything on who took them?"
"Nothing. The van's clean. We figure they wore gloves. Only found a couple of partial prints, Chris's. Looks like he laid against the side of the van for a time. Maybe pushed himself off the side. We don't know for sure though. Found the van to the west of here, near the edge of town. Also close to where you hit the highway to go to the ranch. We think they headed west. The police put out an APB for any vehicle with that license. Everyone else is looking for the rig also. We are going through files and cases, see if there has been anyone released recently who would be a threat to either of them."
Rubbing his hands up and down his arms Martin watched as Josiah skillfully drove through the afternoon traffic. "Do you think it could be someone who knew them?" he asked glancing at Josiah.
"We do. Though no one else does. But we know the bust was a complete set up. Someone with a lot of money arranged it. They went to extremes to carry this off." Josiah glanced at Martin a frown crossed his face as he turned back to the road. "Are you all right? You look cold."
"I'm little chilly. Guess I'm coming down with a cold," Martin answered as another shiver went through him.
"Here Fitz," Danny said passing a blanket to him from the back seat.
"Did Jack call to let you know we were coming?" Danny asked, changing the subject as he watched Martin pull the blanket tightly around him.
"No, Vivian called. She said Jack had left to take you to the airport. Buck took the call," Josiah grinned. "That man was flirting over the phone with her."
Danny and Martin laughed and settled in for the hour long drive to the ranch. The rain began to come down harder and the wind began to blow. Martin pulled the blanket tighter around him.
Vin moaned and tried to open his eyes. When he attempted to rub them, he wondered for a moment, why he couldn't feel his arms at all.
"Vin…" he heard, and his head whipped towards Chris's voice. Pain washed over him and he remembered what happened. He and Chris were captives of a crazy woman.
With a groan he made an effort to shift his legs, relieved when they moved and held his weight while he worked to shift his arms.
"Vin are you alright?" Chris asked as he braced himself on his own sore legs, his body feeling on fire.
"As good as hangin' from a tree can be…" Vin huffed as he shuffled his feet under him. "You?"
"Hell, feel like a side of beef ready ta' be canned."
Vin let out a chuckle. "Hope the boys find us before that happens." A moment later he raised his head and sniffed the air.
"What's wrong?" Chris asked, wishing he could see.
"Rain's coming. Storm," Vin shivered feeling the temperature already dropping.
"Damn. We don't need that." Chris struggled to free his wrists.
"No, ‘m cold enough already. Don't know how to get free. It's late afternoon or early evening. This storm isn't going to be pretty." Vin moved his arms, trying to get some feeling back into them, or, he hoped they would move. It was a lost cause he realized. He sighed. Hopefully he'd be able to move them when the time came. "Damn!"
"What's wrong, other than the obvious?"
"Think I have blood running down my arms. I'm cold and it tickles."
Chris groused, "I know what you mean."
"Working to get whatever it is off my eyes. Be easier if my arms were closer together. Or I could feel them better," Vin rasped.
"Yeah. I've been trying to do that too. Not working too well."
"More pain?" Vin asked. After a couple of minutes, he finally managed to curl his fingers around the branch.
"A lot more," Chris replied twisting carefully. Feeling his ribs erupt into fiery pain, he stopped and panted through the pain.
"Don't hurt yourself more Cowboy."
"You either. Damn where are we?"
"Woods somewhere," Vin promptly answered, then jumped when a crash of thunder sounded nearby.
"Aw hell! Now have to worry about getting struck by lightning."
Chris chuckled then shivered as the first cold raindrops struck him. "Damn bitch! Wish I'd of bitten her ear clear off."
"You bite her?" Vin asked shivering as the rain hit him.
"Yeah, all I could reach at the time."
"I managed to kick her," Vin chuckled. "She didn't like that at all either."
"She'll be careful next time she comes around us."
"Yeah. Damn this rain an' the wind's cold."
"Remember, its early April. Can still get snow," Chris said shivering hard.
"Don't remind me." Vin lapsed into silence, grinding his teeth together to keep them from chattering.
Wind and rain buffeted the two men as day deepened into night. Unable to do anything but stand, or hang by their wrists, they shivered and wished their friends would find them. The sooner the better.
The lightning and thunder passed, but the cold rain kept coming down. The wind never ceased. Too cold and miserable, and unable to do more than shuffle their feet, the men suffered in silence. Time seemed to drag as they hung on the limb.
Hours later Chris heard the first cough come from Vin, and knew his brother was in further trouble. Vin easily caught anything going around, he even joked that everything in the county caught him. Being out in this weather and mostly naked, it had been only a matter of time. Helpless to do anything to help Vin, Chris attempted to call to him. The wind whipped his voice away and he turned to the connection they shared.
**Vin? Vin, you awake?**
**Sort of** Came the reply in Chris' head. **Cup a' hot coffee sounds good right ‘bout now**
**Yeah it does. Hang in there, Brother**
**Tryin', just so cold…**
"Vin? Vin!" Chris yelled through the rain but nothing came from the younger man. ‘Hell,' Chris thought, and went back to working on freeing his wrists and get the blindfold off his eyes. He didn't notice when the rain finally stopped as he continued to struggle to free himself. Eventually, exhaustion and cold overtook him and he slumped in his bindings. Hearing another cough from Vin he tried once more to wake Vin with his yells. Silence met his shouts. Except for the sound of water dripping from trees, and the wind shaking the leaves and tree limbs, nothing stirred around them. Bending his head he let himself rest.
A noise roused Chris and he stood a bit straighter, ignoring the cold and pain he listened intently. Something was headed their way. It sounded like a vehicle. For a moment his hopes soared, then plummeted when he heard a woman's voice carry from the area where it stopped.
"Vin, Vin? Are you awake?"
"'mmm … Hurt, cold…Wh… Hell… ‘ hopin' this … a dream." Chris heard the slurred reply.
"They're back brother. Be careful." Chris warned Vin.
"Ah hell." Vin rasped and fell silent. They listened to the squishing footsteps coming their way across the soaked ground.
Ella smiled upon seeing the two men hanging where she'd left them. Her smile widened as she took in the bruises and long red scratches on both of them. Her hand rose to her bandaged right ear and anger raced through her like a flash fire. The doctor had to put eleven stitches in her damaged ear and it still hurt. She had paid the man enough to pay his rent for a year, to keep him quiet.
Glaring at the men in front of her, all she could think of was revenge. First to be kicked, she had a bruise below her waist, several inches lower and it would have been a lot worse. Then spit upon by Tanner. It made her see red as she looked at the slim, trembling form. Her eyes turned to her love; she had to teach him a lesson for what he did to her. She'd barely been able to eat last night, from him biting her tongue. And what he'd done to her ear, it was unforgivable. He would pay. They both would.
Grinning, Ella pointed at Tanner's legs. Simon and Alfred stepped forward.
Before Vin knew it, he felt something wrap around his legs, below his knees over his wet jeans.
Quickly shuffling his legs, he felt a hard jerk and couldn't move them any farther. His legs were immobilized and what felt like a weight pulled on them. So he couldn't kick out he thought. He heard noises to his right and figured they were doing the same to his brother. He gripped the wet bark of the limb over his head with mostly numb fingers, then he sensed someone in front and behind him. An instant later his wet hair was grabbed, his head held in hard hands. He couldn't move.
"I see you had a wonderful night. You look a bit tired, and wet," Ella whispered to him.
Vin ignored the silky low voice and tried to ignore the woman. A hacking cough erupted before he could stop it. Moments later, breathing hard, he tried to catch his breath. Vin stiffened when he felt hands on him.
"Stay away from me …" he growled, his voice a rough rasp. He tried to shift away from the hands that seemed to sear heat through him.
"I don't think so. I have you and there is nothing you or my Love can do. Poor boy, you are so cold and that cough doesn't sound too pleasant."
"Go ta hell."
"I don't think so." The whisper came close enough Vin could feel the woman's breath on the side of his face. "You, Tanner, will be there long before me. Now are you going to kiss me?"
Vin clamped his lips together and heard her chuckle. A moment later something smashed into his bruised side then below his shoulder blades. A moan of pain escaped him.
Warm hands were running over him as he writhed in pain. He attempted to blank out what her hands were doing to him as the hands dipped towards his waist.
Ella smiled, enjoying her prisoner's pain, and stubbornness. She would break him she vowed as she continued to run her hands over him. Feeling him strain to move away from her, she realized that his jeans had slipped lower on his narrow hips. Her smile widened. She ran her hands around the exposed skin around his waist, feeling him tense. Leaning against him she slid her hands under the wet waist band and hissed, "You are so cold. Let me warm you. How does this feel to you? Are you getting warm? This is so delightful. I like touching you." She purred rubbing her head against his cold chest and nibbled across the taunt skin. A half smile crossed her face as she caressed him; her hands moved lower and she gripped him.
Vin shivered. When her hands grasped him, he wrapped his stiff fingers tighter over the limb. With an effort, he fought to shift his feet, and felt the weight below his knees give. Inch by inch he flexed his legs finding he could move them as one. The warm hands rubbed along his waist once more before sliding under his jeans to touch him intimately. The woman continued nibbling on his chest then sucking on his nipples.
"No!" Vin gasped and shifted on his feet. He sucked in his stomach to move away from her grasping hands. He strained to get his head free from the tight grip holding his hair. Not able to move his head he gripped the limb as tight as he could with his numb hands. Arching his back he jerked his knees up as hard as he could. Vin screamed as an unexpected spasm shot through his back in protest when his knees came up. They connected with the woman's hip and groin with a solid blow.
A strangled shriek came from Ella's lips as Vin's legs dropped from the weight on his lower legs. Her hands instantly released him as she pulled them from his jeans. His hair and head were freed as Simon waited for her orders.
Vin heard a noise then something slammed into his back at the same time a fist hit his side. A groan passed his clenched lips as he jerked in his bindings. Sharp pain hit his chest and it raked to his hips several times while someone struck his back and side again. He vaguely heard Chris yelling as his cry of pain echoed around the small clearing. A blow to his lower back shook him and his legs collapsed as two more blows landed on his back. Moments later, a swift punch to his side brought welcome blackness and he went limp.
Ella bent part ways over, pain radiating from her groin, curled her fingers and raked sharp fingernails down Tanner's chest several times drawing blood. Gasping she stepped back and let Simon and Alfred beat Tanner. She saw one of his ribs cave in under a powerful blow from Alfred. A grin crossed her face hearing the distinctive snapping sound of a bone breaking.
With a wave of her hand, she signaled her men away. She motioned to the blond, who called for his partner and twisted as he fought to get loose. Several minutes later, when the pain in her groin abated, she slowly edged to stand in front of her love. She glanced at his legs, to make sure they were tied before she stepped close to him.
Chris stilled. He knew Vin was unconscious, but now the woman and her goons were coming
towards him. He raised his head, tilted it to one side and waited. The scent of her perfume alerted him that the woman had stopped in front of him.
"You bitch. Too afraid to let us meet you face to face? You have to blindfold us, tie us. Beat us into submission. What the hell do you want? Who are you?" Chris snarled.
"I'm the love of your life. You were meant for me. I want you now," Ella answered as her hands started stroking Chris.
"Turn Vin lose and maybe I'll consider you." Chris spat at her.
Laughing, Ella ran her fingers over Chris's mouth then his neck and chest before moving back to his lips. "You are so funny my dear. He is my insurance."
Chris jerked his head away from her fingers. "What are you talking about?"
"Well, let's see," she trailed her fingers over him and began to talk. "I heard that Tanner and you are very close. So … I planned to take him and get you to come to me. But when you came running out that door, my plans changed instantly. I had you both. He is here, to make you do what I desire. He is my insurance policy to make you obey me." Her hand rubbed across his chest. "You are so beautiful my love. I've wanted you for a long time."
Chris's confused thoughts rolled through his head. He couldn't believe the words coming from her mouth. Vin, to control him? Wanting him for a long time? At least she had no idea they were brothers and Vin had a twin. "How long?" he ground out.
"Oh Love, since oh … I don't know… Ten years more or less. The first time I saw you, I knew you
were in love with me. But even though we met you pretended I didn't exist. You pretended to be too ‘busy' with your Navy friend's funeral and then you went on your way. I watched you for a long time and then you married that … that bitch thief! I hated you and needed to leave for awhile. Charlie was a wonderful distraction. We got along fabulously; such a splendid man, so pretty and gentle." Ella's hands carded through Chris's wet hair. "His hair, so much lighter than yours. His bank account is bottomless, so very rich." Her hands moved over his naked shoulders then down across his chest again.
Chris gritted his teeth. The woman was absolutely crazy, a total nut case. His mind flashed over several different ideas to get away from her. He had to get free soon, and to release Vin, get him to safety. He twisted his left wrist slowly so she didn't notice. It hurt like a son of a bitch. He almost moaned in relief when he felt the rope start to give. He had to distract her, keep her talking.
"What do you mean, so rich?"
"Oh …" Chris heard her husky laugh as her hands moved lower. "Charlie, such a sweet man. We had a wonderful time, but he couldn't take your place my Love. No one can ever do that. He died five years ago, leaving me a very rich, grieving widow, with more money than I could spend in my lifetime." She giggled. "In three of my lifetimes. So … I returned to Denver to see how you were doing." A finger tapped on his cheek then the hand returned to his chest, moving in circles lower and lower.
"You were a very naughty boy before I came back. The thief had a kid. A son. She claimed it belonged to you, but I knew the real truth. You would never bed a tramp like her, nor sire anything from her. She lied so well to you and she pulled all the stops out to keep you from me. But I am so much smarter, especially more than that conniving bitch. I have the money and means to get everything I want, no matter what it is I want done."
Chris felt cold to his soul. The woman's words stunned him and he felt nauseas. He believed they were the captives of the person who killed his family. As hate washed through him, a shudder traveled the length of him. Holding a tight rein on his feelings, he didn't show how much the crazy woman's words distressed him.
"Oh Love, she had you so twisted around, you had no idea what you were doing. I saw her, how she enticed you to do things that only we should have done. That trip you took her on, to Cody and Billings. It should have been us, not her and her bastard. It should have been us seeing the sights together. Traveling together. Not her, us …" the words spat out like a rattler striking its victim over and over.
Chris gasped in pain, his heart breaking for the loss of Sarah and Adam. ‘Oh God! This woman followed them,' he thought. What else did she do? He ignored what she was doing to him as her hands continued to rove all over his body. He needed to find out if she was the one behind the deaths of his family.
Feeling sick to give her anything he managed to say, "I didn't know you were around."
"Oh, my Love. It wasn't time for us yet. The bitch had to be taken care of. I waited, watched and listened. I even met her several times at the grocery store and the Dress Barn. I laughed and talked to her. She pretended to be nice. But she took my place, and she wouldn't leave. I tried to convince her to leave. She didn't listen to me." Ella pressed her lips to Chris's while she continued touching and petting him, then her hands slid into his pants.
"Wh … What happened?" Chris asked, scared to hear more but needing to, his heart screaming in pain. The hands felt like fire where they were now placed. He tried to hold back a shudder of revulsion as they fondled him.
"Well after a time, I found someone to get rid of the bitch and the bastard. At first I thought I would have him punish you for playing house with them. But I realized you really needed me, and I could comfort you in this time of need. I didn't know you would go off the deep end like you did though. Naughty boy. Once the explosion and fire happened they were gone for good. Good riddance, at last out of our lives. You were supposed to be all mine. To come to me. Instead you left with that Buck Wilmington. The next time I found you, you were a drunk. I tried to talk to you. To comfort you but you pushed me away and left. So I waited. I made sure you didn't kill yourself that time you passed out in the alley. Poor baby, you were so sick and I couldn't do anything to help you. I made sure no one hurt you until you were awake and able to get up and move. I called a taxi for you and had him take you to Wilmington's place. It wasn't my time yet again," she sighed. "But it is now. I'd seen how close you have gotten to Tanner and I knew the time had finally come. You are mine and no one else's." She freed one hand, reached up and pulled his head down so she could kiss him.
Chris felt her hand pulling his head down and let her do it. The shock of hearing her talk about the murder of his wife and child made him shake with hate. His wrist burned as more skin tore and blood trailed down his arm. He ignored the burning pain as he worked to free himself. He wanted to get his hands on the woman in front of him and squeeze her neck until she died. Something like quicksilver touched his mind for several seconds. It shied away feeling his painful thoughts, as fast as it had come. Concentrating so hard on getting his hand free Chris didn't notice the brief feeling.
Ella plastered herself against him again. Her arms wrapped tightly around his waist as her hands moved up and down his back. Feather light kisses along his collarbone were coming from her warm lips. With a little pull his left hand finally slid free of the rope. His arm almost dropped to his side. With an iron will, he held it still and forced every ounce of strength into holding it up for a moment longer while he worked his fingers.
Her hands dropped and once more worked under his jeans to fondle him. With a muttered curse he dropped his arm.
Danny walked into the kitchen of Chris's large ranch house. He smelled coffee, and he needed a cup. The mud room door opened and Buck and Josiah walked through just as Danny reached for a mug. Both men smiled at Danny, standing in front of the coffee maker in his stocking feet, his black hair falling every-which way. Danny grabbed two more mugs.
"Morning Danny. You sleep all right?" Buck asked, as he reached for the filled cup.
"Good morning, Buck, Josiah. Slept good. Well, off and on. Martin kept waking me though. I don't think he got much sleep." Danny replied, as he sat down at the table. He ran his hand through his messed hair, his dark eyes taking in the other two men. "Chores?"
"Yeah. Got the horses all taken care of and stalls ready for tonight," Josiah answered. "Breakfast?"
"Sure, can I help? Have to thank you for putting me up here. I feel like a third wheel though."
"No, Danny don't feel like that. You are Martin's friend, co-worker, and right now I think he needs his friends. With what's going on with Vin and Chris, I believe the connection between the three of them is working overtime. There's nothing wrong with Martin, at all. He's feeling things that are happening to his brothers. I wish there was a way we could help him, but I don't know how, or what we can do right now, other then be here for him." Josiah replied, as he laid bacon in a cast iron skillet then broke eggs in another.
Danny looked from Josiah to Buck, then back. "He collapsed yesterday. What'll happen today? And now he's coming down with a cold."
Both men nodded. Before either could speak, Martin shuffled into the kitchen dressed in jeans and a heavy dark sweatshirt. His dark hair still wet from his shower. Dark circles, which looked like bruises, were under his tired blue eyes. Martin dropped onto a chair and Josiah shoved a cup of coffee into his hands.
Buck passed the sugar to him then jumped up to make another pot of coffee. Josiah added more eggs to the pan and turned the bacon.
"Are you alright Youngin'?" Buck asked as he started the coffee maker.
Relishing the warmth of the coffee and the sweetness, his cold hands wrapped tightly around it, Martin smiled at Buck. "Just cold, can't seem to get warm. I think its Vin and Chris who are cold." Taking a drink of coffee, he sat the cup down and began to rub his wrists, glancing at them, thinking to see something there. "My wrists hurt some too. I think they're tied and trying to get free." Shivering, he picked the cup up again.
Buck and Josiah glanced at each other before turning their gaze back to Martin. "But where are they?" Buck questioned.
"Outside, tied to something … above their heads." Martin hesitantly answered. Josiah slid a plate in front of him.
"Eat son. We'll find them."
"Thanks Josiah." Martin picked up the fork beside the plate of eggs, bacon and hash browns. "I … Agghhaa …" the fork clattered to the table and Martin's arms wrapped around his chest. His chair skated away from the table as he started to stand. "Noooo!"
Three men froze in surprise. Buck, closest to Martin, reached for him as Martin staggered away from the table. Buck's long arms wrapped around the younger man as Martin let out a scream of pain. Martin's back arched, his hands reached for his lower back as his head thrashed around, one way then the other, butting into Buck's chest. A moment later Martin crossed his arms and pressed them hard into his sides, another cry of pain echoed around the room before he collapsed limply in Buck's arms.
Buck lifted Martin and carried him into the living room. The front door flew open as three men raced into the house, guns in hand.
"Stand down," Buck snapped, as he laid Martin on a couch. Josiah snatched the quilt off the back,
as Danny looked wide-eyed at the three men who'd burst into the room guns pointing at them
Danny realized who the men were, the rest of Chris and Vin's teammates. He smiled at JD who grinned sheepishly back at him while he put his gun away.
Nathan rushed to the couch and knelt down beside Martin. "What happened here?"
"Mr. Wilmington what did you do to place Mr. Fitzgerald in this predicament?" Ezra asked stepping closer to the couch.
"Nothing Ezra. We think it is the connection he has with Vin and Chris. Something's happening."
"This is what happened to him yesterday too. And about the same time," Danny added looking at his watch; it was near 7:30AM. "He should come out of it in a minute or so. Well, that's what happened before," he added with a worried look at his partner.
"He's coming around now, but his heart is racing," Nathan said laying Martin's arm down.
Martin opened his eyes to see six concerned faces crowded around the couch, looking down at him. "What?" He asked, he felt his face get hot, embarrassed that he'd passed out in front of them. With a heave he pushed himself upright.
"Are you all right, Martin?" Nathan felt the young man's head, as he checked for fever. His dark eyes looked deep into the blue ones.
"Hi Nathan. I think I'm okay. Vin and maybe Chris …" Martin's voice drifted off as his eyes blinked. His right hand went to his left wrist; he first rubbed it then cradled it against his chest. "Oh God… Chris?" he asked his head tilted. The red flush drained from his face, turning his features white and frail looking. Blue eyes stared unseeing at the men surrounding him.
Danny slipped onto the couch behind Martin, alarmed at how his teammate looked. With a gentle hand, he touched Martin's back then began to rub it in slow circles.
The men watched as a look of horror crossed Martin's face and he began to tremble. Helplessly Danny looked at Nathan seated on the other side of Martin. Nathan tried to figure out what was going on with the young FBI agent as he took his blood pressure then listened to his heart. Martin looked like he could go into shock any moment with his dilated pupils, pale skin and shallow breathing.
"Martin, can you hear me?" Nathan asked, touching Martin's left wrist. He'd seen Martin rubbing it and checked to see if there was any damage that would be causing Martin's distress. Holding the wrist, he took Martin's pulse, finding it too rapid, before Martin pulled away with a jerk. He cradled it against his chest, protecting it with his right hand.
Unexpectedly tears sprang into Martin's eyes and fell, as Martin gasped for breath. "Oh God… Noooo…" Martin cried out. His left hand flailed, as he reacted out to something only he could feel and hear. Tears fell harder, rolling down his pale face.
"Martin, Martin… Fitz … Talk to me, what's going on? Martin! What do you hear? Tell me now!" Danny said loudly to his friend, grasping Martin's shaking shoulders.
Danny's voice cut through the anguish Martin was experiencing at some level, and he turned blind eyes towards Danny.
"What's wrong with …" JD started to say, but a motion from Ezra cut him off and he fell silent. Martin began to speak. His raspy voice so like Vin's, now shook and stuttered.
"She ki … killed them … Family… The bitch … she ordered it … going to use … Vin to get me … Oh God! She's the one … hate her… Sarah... Adam…" Tears streaming down his cheeks, as he tightly clutched his wrist pressing it hard against his chest. A moan of pain escaped his tight lips.
"Martin, calm down. Let Nathan look at your wrist," Danny said gripping Martin's shoulders. The others looked on in horror. Buck felt like he'd been sucker punched. Hearing the words coming from Martin his hands clenched into fists.
"No … not me … Chris," Martin rocked back and forth holding his wrist. "Oh God, oh God … NO!"
Chris's left arm dropped. His hand tore at the blindfold over his eyes, ripping it loose and down away from his eyes. For an instant, the light blinded him. But his arm moved and wrapped around the woman's upper chest. His hand grabbed her neck. His long fingers wrapped around her throat, below her bandaged ear. He felt her freeze against him.
"I'll break your fucking neck if you move an inch. Cut Vin loose." Chris growled tightening his hand, ignoring the pain of his torn wrist. He sensed movement behind him and snarled, "Touch me and she's dead." He glanced around and saw a huge man to his right, another stepped into his view with a bat in his hand. His grip tightened on the woman's neck.
Ella choked and tried to draw a breath, feeling the hand and arm tighten across her. In a panic, waved her arm at the blurry figure she could see out of the corner of her eye.
"All right mister, we'll turn him loose. Just be careful of the lady." The first man said and walked slowly past Chris, far enough away that Chris could watch him. He held his hands out from his body and carefully moved to Vin's side.
"You drop that and get over where I can see you better,." Chris ordered the man with the bat. He watched the man step into place where the first man had been, his arms well away from his sides. The bat hit the ground several feet from him
Tearing his gaze from the man, Chris glanced at the first one to see what he was doing. He saw he'd released Vin's legs and was working to cut the rope holding Vin's arms. He looked back at the second man standing eight feet from him, then down to the woman in his arm.
"Who the hell are you?" He asked, his glance going back to the two men before he looked at her again.
"Let me go," The woman whispered hoarsely.
"No. Who are you?"
The dark head turned a little, as Ella tried to look at her love, a smile on her lips.
"I'm your life. Your only love. You know me."
"I don't know you, or want anything to do with you, bitch." A noise from his left jerked Chris's head towards Vin and he saw him drop to the wet ground in a heap. "Damn-it, cut me loose," he told the man by Vin, and watched the man with the knife come towards him. Chris tightened his arm around the woman, his hand grinding into her throat. Chris heard her gasp for breath and slump weakly against him.
His legs were freed and he braced them, hoping he didn't collapse. The man began cutting the rope that bound his other wrist. A moment later his right arm dropped to his side.
"Get back," he commanded, and shifted his weight to get a better grip on the woman.
Before he could get his hold adjusted and his right arm up, the woman exploded. She whirled and reaching around him raked her long, sharp fingernails across his bruised back as her head slammed hard into his chest. Chris grunted in pain and glanced down at the face smiling up at him before she twisted away. A hand grasped his wrist and pain shot through his arm as it was forced away from the woman.
Taking a step back, Chris grabbed his wrist with his still half numb right hand. Something struck him in his side and he staggered. He fought to stay upright. Another blow caught him, throwing him another step away from the woman. She scrambled back from him, her hand at her throat. Seeing red, he tried to fight his way to her, but another punishing blow caught him.
His wrist was released and Chris staggered to his right. He shook his arm to get the numbness out of it. Another blow connected. His vision blurring, he spotted the woman standing over Vin.
An evil grin contorted Ella's face as she kicked the fallen man. Her dark eyes never left Chris as she kicked Vin again. With a roar, Chris launched himself at her. All he knew was he had to protect his brother.
Ella smiled at Chris as he reached her. A vicious blow to his back propelled him into her and it took both of them down.
A scream sounded in his ear as his weight pinned the struggling woman to the soaked ground. Chris reached for her neck wanting to strangle her before he lost consciousness.
"Who are you bitch?" He rasped as his hands reached to her neck, but hands grabbed his arms and jerked him off her.
"Oh my Love, I'm Ella Gains. Your one and only. You remember me," she answered with a smile as he was dragged from her.
The two men holding Chris looked at each other, that wasn't the name she'd given them. Albert shrugged, they were paid enough and she could call herself anything she chose.
"Bitch, go to hell," Chris snarled. "I'll kill you with my bare hands." He gasped as a blow to his side dropped him to his knees. The large men held his arms keeping him in place between them.
Ella stepped in front of Chris. The look of hate she gave him seared into his brain. "You deny me? Our love? After all this time? After all I've done for you?"
Chris looked up at the mud covered woman. "Murderer. You killed my family. I'll hate you till the day I kill you." His eyes burned with unshed tears, as he spit blood from his cut lips at her.
A hand struck him across his face hard enough to turn his head. Chris slowly turned back to her. "I will kill you bitch and smile while I'm doing it." He stated flatly, his glare full of hate.
"Never!" Ella spat out and moved back with a wave of her hand.
Albert and Simon dragged Chris to his feet. Before he could free himself, they started to throw punches at him. He staggered under the blows feeling several ribs snap. When a hard blow to the small of his back caught him, a scream of pain echoed around the meadow and he went down. Thankfully, blackness overtook him.
Ella waved her two men off and stood looking at the two unconscious men for several minutes. "Let's go, leave them here to rot. No one will find them until they're bones." She turned towards where they'd parked the van. Simon and Alfred glanced at each other, shrugged and followed. They pulled bloody gloves from their hands. Minutes later the van started and it turned around and left. Only the wind in the trees and the noise of moisture dripping from them sounded in the clearing.
Martin's tears stopped as he gazed into the distance. "Trees. Huge maple? Vin... let him go," he rasped looking blindly to the left. "Ohgod, ohgod … hurts so bad." He started rocking back and forth again. He jumped up, an angry cry of rage echoed through the room. Martin glanced frantically around. His eyes and head moved as he searched for something only he could see, or thought he could.
"Martin, Martin … You're here, you're safe. Look at me …" Danny said calmly standing near but not touching his friend. Not sure how Martin would react.
Martin wrapped his arms around himself. Everyone noticed he favored his left arm. With a groan, his head dropped and then he dropped to his knees with a gasp.
"Gains … Ella … kill you …" Martin panted. "Trees… Home? … Close to home…" With a moan he collapsed, curling into a tight ball.
Josiah gently gathered the shaking body into his arms, rose and placed Martin back on the couch. Nathan reached for his wrist to check his pulse. Buck ran a hand through his dark hair for a
moment before turning to his teammates.
"We've got a name. JD get on the computer. Ezra let's saddle horses. We need to check the back fields. I remember Chris talking about this big old maple that he was going to cut down, Sarah wouldn't let him; somewhere towards the back of the ranch. I'm sure Vin knows exactly where it is, but I'm not sure. I think it's close to the back property line." Buck ordered.
"Horses, Mr. Wilmington?"
"Yes. Be faster with horses. Some of this ranch can't be reached with a truck. The back corners can be reached by forest service roads, but it'll take too much time to get around to them. Josiah, do you still have the radios in your rig?"
"I'll get them. Take a cell phone too." Josiah headed for the door.
"I can go too," Danny stated.
"Stay with Martin and Nathan …"
"I'm going Buck. From Martin's reaction I'll be needed." Nathan declared rising from where he'd been kneeling beside Martin.
"What about Martin?"
"Nothing I can do for him. He's reacting to what's happened to Vin and Chris. His heart rate is higher than normal but he's in no danger. He should be all right in a few minutes."
"All right get your bag and let's get going." Buck turned towards Danny.
"I'm going too …" A raspy voice was heard. Buck, Danny and Nathan looked at Martin. He was pushing himself into a sitting position on the couch.
"Fitz, you can't…" Danny started to say.
"It's my brothers out there Danny. I'm going." Martin insisted, standing up he staggered slightly then shook his head. He glanced at the men standing around him. "I'm fine. Let's go."
"Are you sure Martin?" Buck queried, looking worriedly at the young man's pale face and shaking body.
"Just need a warm coat. I'm fine."
Nathan, having been watching Martin finally said, "I think Vin's got a coat in his room. I'll get it for you." He quickly headed for the hallway.
"I am fine Danny." Martin shot Danny a look that caused Danny to nod and step back.
"Danny, would you mind staying here and helping JD? We'll keep in touch with him. He might need help juggling the cell phone, radio and work on the computer," Buck asked as Josiah hurried back into the room. Several radios clutched in his hand and Nathan's first aid duffel bag over his shoulder.
Nathan returned to the room and handed Martin a flannel shirt, then a sheepskin lined denim jacket and warm stocking hat. He took the duffel from Josiah and pulled it over his shoulder. He and Josiah paused and looked at Buck.
"I'll stay Buck. Never rode a horse anyway. I'd probably hold you back," Danny replied as he watched Martin slip on the shirt and jacket. Once the hat covered his head Martin buried his hands in the pockets. Danny knew Martin still felt his brothers.
"Thanks Danny. We'll take care of Martin. Let's go." Buck led the way through the kitchen and out the door, heading for the barn.
Ezra had several horses saddled, and with more hands the rest were quickly tacked up. With a wave of his hand at the house, Buck mounted and headed for the tree line at a fast clip. The other men followed behind him.
As they rode along an old trail, Buck thoughts turned back as he remembered the past. He'd helped Chris fence most of the property years ago and they'd ridden over it several times. Vin and Chris knew the land a lot better, but he had an idea where several stands of maple trees were located. He just hoped he could find the right one, and it was on the property. There were several large maple trees towards the back of the ranch, close to where the property bordered the Forest Service land. Buck knew there was an old abandoned dirt road on the Forest land. It came within an eighth of a mile of Chris's back fence line in several places. Over the years they'd used it, crossing the road many times when going horse camping in the mountains. Chris had built three gates to give them easy access to the thousands of acres butting against his.
The first little stand of maple they found nothing and headed for the next. A cold drizzle started falling and they pulled slickers on as they urged their mounts along the fence line. Martin knew the men were keeping an eye on him, he could feel their glances as he pulled Vin's slicker on. Keeping his face neutral, he shivered, it felt as if he was slowly freezing to death and the pain had begun to shoot through him. He knew it was Vin but he also knew there was nothing he could do until they found them. He kept trying to reach them through their mental connection they shared.
Buck led the riders, at a canter, through the dripping trees, dodging low hanging branches. His heart thudded as he burst into another stand of maple trees. It took only a moment for the five men to cover the stand of trees and meet on the other side.
"Martin, are you all right?" Buck asked pulling his grey to a halt beside the younger man.
"I'm fine Buck. We've got to hurry," he answered between chattering teeth, keeping how he really felt to himself.
With a nod Buck whirled his horse and shot off through the trees. The others lined out behind him. The next stand of maples was a half mile away.
The cold made Vin shiver and he tried to curl into himself to get warm. He moved and piercing pain made him moan. He held himself still and wondered, for a moment, what the hell happened. Had Peso thrown him? Had he been wounded in a bust? He tried to open his eyes to look around and then he panicked. He couldn't see. He was blind. Breathing hard, he fought to calm himself. He realized he was lying on his right side with something heavy on his left thigh. Little by little, he brought his right hand up to his head and ran his fingers over his hair and face. Feeling material over his eyes, he pulled at it until the wet cloth slid down over his nose and mouth to rest under his chin. Not wanting to alert anyone, he slowly opened his eyes. He blinked moisture from them then squinted in the light he hadn't seen in awhile. He glanced around.
All he could see at the angle he lay, were tree trunks and grass. He let his eyes drift down to see what held his leg down.
Black clad legs and bare feet came into his line of sight in the grass. A bruised and scratched chest with an arm lying over it next appeared. Blinking, Vin gazed at the torn, bloody wrist dripping blood that mingled with the rainwater running off the body to drip onto the wet ground. Vin's eyes rose higher and he looked at the blond head and arm resting on his thigh.
"Chris! Chris…" In that instant he remembered everything that had happened and jerked to a sitting position. With a cry of pain, he folded over, his head almost touching Chris's. ‘Ohgod ohgod … That hurts.' Vin gasped wrapping his arms tightly around his abdomen. He felt like he was on fire as pain shot through his back, hips, ribs and spine.
Tears caused by the pain dripped into the wet blond hair below his face. Rain, that was light minutes ago, started to come down harder. Vin knew he had to somehow get them to shelter. Carefully, he pushed himself upright. Moaning, he closed his eyes and waited for his vision to clear. His wrists burned, he blinked then glanced down at his wrists as he moved his hands to Chris's shoulder. They were red and bloody but moving, his fingers and hands worked. He ignored the pain in them and gazed all around. Spotting a thick tree limb above him, he figured they had been tied to it but it was well out of his reach. The huge tree trunk stood almost eight feet from them. If they could get to it, they'd be protected from most of the rain, he hoped.
"Chris, Chris I need you ta wake up. Help me Cowboy. Don't think I can carry you," he said. Touching his brother's face he felt heat radiating from the pale features. He lifted Chris's head off his leg. Painfully he rose to his knees. He placed his hands on each side of Chris's head. Biting his lips to keep from screaming, he grasped Chris around his upper arms and pulled. Chris slid across the wet ground, until his shoulders reached Vin's knees. Taking a deep breath, Vin backed up a little farther and pulled. His body shook with the effort, his vision narrowed.
With tears streaming down his face, Vin was able to move Chris three feet before he collapsed beside him. He couldn't move another inch. Several ribs had shifted with every breath and pull, he needed to rest. He wondered vaguely what his back looked like since it felt like stinging burns that extended below his hips. With a last look at Chris, his eyes slid closed and let the threatening blackness take him. His right arm lay across Chris's chest gripping Chris's upper left arm.
Several minutes' later, horses thundered into the clearing and slid to a halt. The five riders looked in every direction.
Martin had slumped in his saddle; he could feel Vin's pain from the time the rain started. Biting his lips he'd managed to keep from crying out. A few minutes earlier the pain almost knocked him from the saddle, he'd moaned and squeezed his eyes closed. Nathan, riding close to him reached out and caught his arm, holding him steady as they rode through the woods. Once Martin regained his composure Nathan let go and they hurried after the other riders.
"Thanks," Martin told Nathan as he pulled his horse to a sliding stop behind Buck, Josiah and Ezra. His gaze went instantly to his right and he whirled his horse, nudged it into motion, unaware of the looks he received from the ATF agents.
His horse took five steps, and Martin threw himself out of the saddle beside his brothers. "Vin, Chris?" He called as he dropped to his knees next to them. He looked up when Nathan dropped to the ground on the other side of the two men, his hand already reaching to check pulses.
The men wasted no time in dismounting by Martin and Nathan. Ezra moved to open his saddlebag; he pulled a tightly folded plastic tarp from it and handed it to Buck. Then he grabbed a folded blanket. Moving to Martin's side he opened the blanket and draped it over Vin. Buck and Josiah opened the tarp and held it over the downed men as they looked above them, to see how to tie it off. Moving quickly Ezra went back to the horses' and pulled more blankets from the saddlebags on Buck and Martin's horses. He snatched four pieces of cotton rope from his saddlebag. Moments later Chris and Vin were partly covered with the blankets, and Ezra began tying the rope to the corners of the tarp.
Buck took one corner of the tarp and rope and tied it to the branch above them. One after the other, each corner was tied to the limbs. The tarp, sloped at an angle, draining water off to one side, giving protection to the two unconscious figures with enough room for the rest of them to stand under.
Martin helped Nathan wrap bandages around Chris's broken ribs. Nathan shook his head over the bruises, scratches and damaged wrists. Chris's back and chest were covered with bruises, fever already climbing. Nathan turned to the shivering sharpshooter. He could feel heat radiating off Vin as he checked his pulse before turning to his other injuries. He easily found broken ribs and could hear the rattle of Vin's breathing. Vin was as battered as Chris.
"Call for a medivac helicopter. We need to get them to the hospital now,." Nathan ordered not realizing that Josiah already was talking on the cell phone.
Buck moved out from under the tree, his hands clenched into fists after seeing the abuse his friends had suffered. His gaze went around the clearing, as he turned his thoughts to figuring out if a helicopter could land there. Motioning to Ezra, he told him what he was thinking, they needed to measure the meadow. They walked back and forth across the area, pacing out the meadow's size. They met and compared their steps and for the first time in two hours Buck grinned. Slapping Ezra on the shoulder, they moved close to the others and Nathan's patients.
They discussed how to signal the pilot when the chopper arrived.
"I believe I have something the pilot could see," Ezra stated as he reached under his slicker, and dug into his coat pocket. Moving closer to his teammates, he pulled a small packet out and began to open it, producing a silver reflector blanket. They weighed the silver blanket down by its corners in the middle of the clearing
"That'll work Ezra. Josiah?" Buck looked at the two men.
"They're on the way. Fifteen or twenty minutes. Let's move the horses farther into the woods. We don't want to walk back to the house."
Buck nodded his thanks and looked down at Nathan at the same time the man glanced up. Buck's eyebrows lifted in question.
"Hypothermia, dehydration, fever, broken ribs, and wrists tore up, dislocated shoulders, massive bruising, probable kidney damage, deep scratches some infected, looks like those were probably done with fingernails." Nathan shook his head and continued, "Vin's coming down with pneumonia I think. I imagine Chris will too. I hope neither of them have internal damage from the beatings or broken ribs. But they're in bad shape."
"Damn." Buck muttered, looking at the brothers. He glanced at the pale faced Martin, who cradled his twin's head on his lap. His blue eyes fixed on Vin's face. From the corner of his eye, Buck saw Chris move his head.
"Vin … Vin …" Chris moaned as his eyes fluttered.
Before Martin could react, Buck crouched over Chris and said, "It's alright Stud, Vin's right here, we've got your backs. Don't move." He placed his hand on Chris's shoulder as glazed sea green eyes looked up at him.
"B … Buck?"
"Yes, it's me. You're safe. We'll get you out of here shortly." Nathan passed Buck the canteen he just picked up. "Here take a sip pard, you need some water." Nathan lifted Chris's head and Buck pressed the canteen to his lips. Chris drank a few swallows before turning his head away.
**Right here Chris. I've got him** Chris heard in his head before Buck could answer. He turned his head enough to see Martin with Vin beside him.
"Martin? You're here?"
Martin smiled, "I'm here Chris. Relax, Vin is safe and so are you."
"Need to get her …" Chris tried to push himself up only to moan in pain. Nathan eased him back down.
"Stay still Chris. You'll only damage yourself more."
"Chris, we're looking for her. Don't torment yourself, we're on it," Buck told him, his hand again on his old friend's chest.
"Co …cold…" Chris mumbled as his eyes slid closed, his body trembling. Nathan pulled the blanket tighter around Chris, wishing both men were off the wet ground.
Fifteen minutes later, they heard the noise of the approaching helicopter. Josiah, on the radio with the pilot, directed them to where they were. The horses had been moved and were tied deeper in the woods so they wouldn't panic when the chopper landed.
Minutes later, the helicopter landed and two paramedics ducked under the blades and headed over to the huddle of men.
"Hey Nathan. What do you have here?" Jarrod Schultz, the taller of the two medics's asked as he ducked under the tarp.
"Hi Jarrod. Two badly beaten men …" Nathan quickly gave the men's names then listed what he'd found wrong with his teammates. Jarrod and his partner checked the two men while Nathan talked.
"Let's get the stokes and get them loaded and out of here, the hospital has been alerted. I'll fill them in as we go." Jarrod rose and looked at his partner who knelt by Vin. "Kent?"
"Stable." The two men ran back to the chopper, ducking under the slowly revolving blades. They retrieved backboards, blankets and two stokes to load the men into. Once more, they ducked the blades and ran back to the patients. Nathan and Buck helped the EMT's settle the brothers into the stokes. With the agents help, they quickly had Chris and Vin ready to transport. Two agents carried one stoke, while the EMT's the other. The men hurried to the waiting helicopter, loaded the patients and rapidly belted them down for the trip to the hospital.
"Nathan, you and Martin go with them. We'll get there as soon as we can," Buck told the two men and waved them aboard.
Martin vaulted in the door and settled between his brothers as Nathan jumped aboard. Following Kent's hurried instructions they seated themselves and belted in. Their teammates ducked back and away as the blades revved into faster motion. With a roar the helicopter lifted off, and once well above the meadow, turned east and headed for Denver.
Buck, Josiah and Ezra made short work of picking up the silver blanket, taking down the tarp and gathering the two wet blankets. They ran through the trees to where the horses were tied and stored the items in saddlebags. Mounting, they led the two rider-less horses and rode as fast as they could through the trees to a trail that would take them to the house.
Vin started to cough uncontrollably and gasp for air. Martin and Nathan watched as Kent placed the oxygen mask on Vin. The rain and raising wind buffeted the helicopter as it raced to Denver General.
Feeling tied down, Vin started thrashing. He moaned. Martin could feel panic building inside his brother. Kent tried to restrain him, and with an oath Martin unhooked his seatbelt and knelt beside Vin, grabbing his hand.
"Vin, take it easy. You're safe brother. Easy, come on I'm here, so is Chris. It's alright. Open your eyes, look at me," Martin yelled over the noise of the helicopter. In his head he was calling to Vin, trying to reach him before he hurt himself more. He could feel Vin's pain rolling over him and fought it. He knew if he gave into it he'd pass out. He concentrated harder on contacting Vin.
Another wild thrash from Vin and he started coughing harder. The mask over his mouth and nose became splattered with blood spots as Vin coughed.
Martin's head lay beside Vin's as he talked to him. One hand gripped Vin's hot hand tighter while he ran his free hand through Vin's hair. "Feel me brother, relax and let the medic help you... I am here…" He told Vin as Vin weakly fought against the restraints.
Kent, beside Vin grabbed the air mask off Vin's face and swabbed the blood away before quickly replacing it. He had to keep the air flowing clearly to keep his patient alive.
Just as Martin thought he'd have to lay over Vin to hold him still, his brother's eyes opened a slit, then a bit wider. "Ma …Martin?" his lips formed the name. Martin sat up and smiled through the pain enveloping his chest.
"It's me Vin. Relax we're almost to the hospital. Don't move, you're hurting yourself more when you do." Martin pleaded.
At last Martin felt the tension leaking out of Vin as the blue eyes stared at him. "Chris is here, he'll be alright too. You both are safe," he told Vin.
"H… Hurt," Vin muttered through the mask.
"I know Vin. Relax; we've got your back."
Vin's eyes closed as he started coughing. He twisted and gasped for air. The inside of the air mask became covered with blood again. Once more, Kent snatched it off Vin's face and wiped it clean. Martin felt a searing pain in his chest and gripped Vin's hand tighter, pressing his free hand on Vin's good shoulder as Kent and Nathan tried to keep Vin still.
"Aaawww God!" Exclaimed Martin, fighting to keep from passing out as agony ripped through his chest. As blackness began to overtake him, his head dropped to rest beside Vin's head.
Vin stiffened a moment, then collapsed back, unconscious. Kent released his hold and instantly began taking Vin's vitals. Nathan took Martin's shoulders and moved him back, easing him to the floor of the chopper and took his pulse.
"What's wrong with him?" Jarrod asked as he moved from Chris's side. He'd been holding the blond down when he tried to rise before collapsing a moment after Vin. Kneeling beside Nathan, he reached for Martin's wrist. "He looks like he's in shock."
"He's all right. The three have a connection, and can feel each other's pain," Nathan replied.
Just then Martin's eyes blinked open. He looked blankly at the two men bending over him. Movement to his right caught his eye and he winced as he remembered what had happened. He grabbed Nathan's arm. "Rib. Vin's got a broken rib in his chest." He yelled to get Nathan's attention.
"We know," Nathan told him.
"Lung, it's in his lung." Martin pointed at his brother's chest where he could still feel the sharp pain in his own chest.
For an instant, the three medic's looked at him with different expressions on their faces before Kent's hands flew over Vin's chest. Jarrod radioed the hospital filling them in with the new information.
A shout from the pilot alerted them they were landing in one minute. The two EMT's checked their patients' making sure they were secure for the landing. Nathan put Martin in a seat and belted him in. Nathan then belted himself into another seat.
Moments later, the helicopter bumped gently onto the landing pad on top of Denver General Hospital. Doctors and nurses stood waiting near the double glass doors. As soon as the chopper landed, they swarmed forward. They broke into two groups around the wheeled gurneys.
Within minutes Chris and Vin had been moved onto the gurneys, IV's and oxygen tanks were attached to the gurneys, and they were being pushed into the building. Nathan and Martin thanked the pilot and hurried after the others. The two men raced out of the elevator in the emergency department, and looked around for the two injured men. Not seeing them anywhere, they hurried to the desk and asked about them.
"They're being examined. Can you fill out these forms? Then take a seat. We'll let you know something as soon as the doctors' are finished." The calm receptionist told them, handing them the long medical information forms.
"You have both of them in your records. All their information is in there. Check it out." Nathan said. Taking the forms, he filled in Chris and Vin's names then handed them back to her. He wondered where the regular receptionists were, but turned away. "We'll be over there." He pointed as he gripped Martin's arm, seeing the younger man's mouth open to say something to the woman.
Nathan pulled Martin away from the desk, and moved him towards the chairs in the open area waiting room. Slumping into a chair, away from the other people in the area, Martin's head dropped. His eyes slid closed as he attempted to block out his twin's pain. He heard Nathan say something to him, but he felt too exhausted to figure out what he'd said. Opening his eyes, Martin glanced down at his hands. They were shaking, and he could feel the shakes clear to his shoulders. Feeling eyes of the other people waiting in the room on him, he clenched his hands into fists before crossing his arms and tucking his hands out of sight. He didn't care to be on display in a waiting room. He glared at the people staring at him until they turned away.
Nathan, who had risen, paced around the room several times, then paused and looked at the young FBI agent. He noticed Martin huddled over tightly clenched arms that wrapped protectively around him. Shaking his head, he sat beside the young man, wishing there was something he could do to help block the pain Martin felt.
Martin raised his head and glanced around.
"Martin are you all right?" Nathan asked, seeing the dazed look in the blue eyes.
Blinking, Martin nodded his head as he took a deep breath then straightened. "I'm fine."
Nathan grinned at him.
"What's wrong?" Martin questioned.
"'I'm fine.' No matter how bad any of the guys are hurting, especially Chris and Vin, that's the answer I get from them every time. I think none of them have any other words but those when they're hurt."
Tilting his head, Martin sent a crooked grin to Nathan. "I think it is the only ones we know when we are hurting." Grinning he glanced around and relaxed a little more. The pain that had been with him for some time, had disappeared. He knew Vin was receiving the care he needed. He could still feel Chris's pain, but it wasn't as intense as Vin's.
For awhile the two sat in silence. Nathan noted that color was slowly returning to Martin's face, though his brow still wore a crease showing the pain he'd been feeling. Nathan smiled in relief, Martin
began to unwind more with each minute that passed.
Their heads snapped up at a loud yell of anger coming from the exam area.
"Chris!" Martin bolted from his chair. Dodging nurses and residents he rushed into the examination room area. By instinct he knew which cubicle Chris was in and rushed inside.
Martin paused a moment, taking in the chaos going on around him. Chris, fists cocked in fighting mode, was shoving and punching at the hands that were trying to hold him still. A nurse staggered back, hitting the wall. A glancing blow from Chris had connected with her nose, breaking it, blood began to pour down her face. An angry bellow came from the struggling man that propelled Martin into motion.
Pushing a nurse out of the way, Martin grabbed a flailing arm. He placed his other hand on Chris's cheek, roughly turning it towards him
"Chris, Chris … It's alright…You're safe …" Wild sea green eyes connected with wide blue ones.
"He's safe. He'll be all right; the doctors are checking him over. You have to calm down and let them work. You have broken ribs; let these people take care of you." Martin told Chris as his hand stroked over Chris's cheek with a calming movement.
"Yep it's me. We'll talk more when the doctor's done with you. All right?" Martin's hand tightened on Chris's arm.
"Yeah. Hurt." Chris's eyes abruptly slid closed and he went limp. Martin's head snapped up as a doctor stepped to his side. His hand was pushed from Chris's cheek as the doctor quickly checked Chris's eyes.
"Sir, you need to get out of here so we can work." The doctor said as his hands flew over Chris's chest.
A nurse took Martin's arm and he released Chris and stepped back. His eyes never left Chris as an oxygen mask was placed over his mouth and nose. Another nurse finished cutting Chris's pants off him and draped a sheet over his groin area.
The nurse pushed Martin again and he shifted enough to stand against the wall. "Broken ribs and back pain," he told the nurse who again shoved him towards the cubicles entrance. With a nod she turned back and he found himself standing in the hall with Nathan. Nathan placed his arm around Martin; he could feel the tremors running through the young agent. With a nudge, he led Martin back to the chairs they'd been sitting in minutes earlier.
"What happened?" Martin asked staring at the closed curtain.
"He's alright, Martin, he passed out. They'll let us know as soon as they get him stabilized. We just have to wait. It could take awhile." Nathan reassured the shaken young man.
Time seemed to crawl by as they waited for word from the doctors working on Chris and Vin. Martin, at the end of his patience, paced the hall in long, lithe strides. He was pain free, and knew that the doctors were caring for his brothers. But he didn't know how bad they were and wondered if either one would need a specialist.
Vowing to go look for one of the doctors in five minutes, he turned and headed back the way he'd come. Someone should have informed them two hours ago he fumed as he paced. What was happening to them?
The receptionist had been watching the handsome young man for over an hour. She finally
spotted one of the ER doctor's approaching. She nodded to the doctor and pointed at the seated agent wearing a jean jacket with dried blood stains on the front. She breathed a sigh of relief as she turned back to her work. The doctor would fill in the two men.
Nathan stood as a doctor in a green scrub approached him. Out of the corner of his eye he caught sight of Martin hastening towards them.
"You're here for Chris Larabee?"
"And Vin Tanner," Martin snapped before Nathan could reply.
"Yes. I'm Agent Larabee's doctor, Doctor Michaels. Agent Larabee is being taken to a room right now. You can see him as soon as he's settled. Room 617." The doctor held up his hand before either could speak. "Agent Tanner will be in the same room as soon as he's out of surgery and recovery." Seeing the looks on the two men's faces he hastened along. "Agent Larabee has four broken ribs, one in two places, and we have set them and will be keeping an eye on the badly broken rib. He has massive bruising over his back, lower back, ribs and kidneys, and is passing blood. If it gets worse we will have to take him to surgery to find the cause. But he is a strong man, and we're hoping this will correct itself. We have him on high doses of antibiotics and are watching for pneumonia. He is dehydrated, and chilled. He is on a warming blanket. With all the bruising he has, we have him on a mild painkiller. We also had to put in some stitches, in the deeper scratches on his chest and back. We are watching those for infection. With the high antibiotic's we hope that won't be a problem."
The doctor took a breath and glanced at the paper in his hand. "His wrists were pretty lacerated, especially the left one. Our resident nerve specialist checked them and didn't find any nerve damage. He will check it again in a couple of days, after it has some time to start healing. Agent Larabee is going to be very stiff and sore for a week or more, but he should be healed completely in several weeks, if not longer. Now, on Agent Tanner. I checked with Dr. Kirkland his attending physician, and found out Tanner had gone to surgery. He came in with a punctured lung that they are attending to right now. He also has four broken ribs, and massive bruising on his back and lower back, and is passing blood. He has a mild case of pneumonia which he is in treatment for; we believe we've caught it before it became full blown. His wrists are lacerated. Several deep scratches on his chest and some on his back are being stitched; he too has extensive bruising. Both men are running fevers, though Agent Tanner's is a bit higher right now. Tanner is also dehydrated and chilled; he will be closely watched as is Agent Larabee."
Doctor Michaels stopped talking, for a moment, as his glance went over the two men. His pager went off and he looked at it, seeing that he was being called to one of the ER cubicles. A disturbance distracted him when five men pushed past an ER nurse and rushed towards them. He could see the worried looks on the men's faces as they stopped beside the two he was talking with.
As questions tumbled from the newcomers, Dr. Michaels held up his hand to quiet them. "I have to go right now. Your friends here can fill you in and I will look you up as soon as I can to answer any more questions you have. One question though, how long were they out there?" He asked looking at the men.
"Two nights, until three hours ago." Buck answered quickly.
Nodding his thanks, Michaels now had the answer he and Dr. Kirkland needed. "Agent Larabee will be in his room shortly, and Tanner will join him when he's out of surgery and recovery. You men can
go up there and see if Larabee is in his room." Michaels stopped when a nurse hurried up to him.
"Doctor, you were paged. You're needed right away in exam 4."
"Be right there. The nurse upstairs will show you where Larabee's room is. I'll see you later." With that he hurried away.
After the doctor left, the men turned to Nathan and Martin for answers to their questions.
"Let's go upstairs and we'll tell you everything he told us," Nathan said as he pivoted and walked towards the elevators. Luck smiled on them; they all entered one car and were able to talk on the ride to the 6th floor. Finding room 617 they waited in the hall, since the door was closed, talking quietly. A short time later the door opened, an orderly pushed an empty gurney out followed by two nurses. A third nurse followed moments later. She stopped when she saw how many men were standing along the wall outside the patient's room.
"You're here for Mr. Larabee?"
"Yes ma'am," Buck answered.
"You can go in now. He is asleep. He received a shot in order to transport him. Agent Larabee is now connected to a morphine IV pump, it is available for him to use when he needs it for the next few days. The pump is on the right side of the bed. He should use it. I'll be back to check him in fifteen minutes." With a nod to the men she headed down the hall.
In silence, the men filed into Chris's room. Chris slept; his pale features were pain free. He'd pushed the blanket down and they could see the bandages on his chest and wrists. An oxygen monitor was attached to a finger; the IV lines connected to him provided fluids and drugs. The men saw bruises on his arms and shoulders, many extending out from under the bandages wrapped around him. Within minutes the men had settled around the room. Several sat on the spare bed, while Martin dropped into the chair beside Chris. The others took seats on the window sill or slumped to the floor.
Two hours later Ezra, JD, and Danny went to get coffee for all of them, and take a few minutes to get a breath of fresh air. The other men talked as they waited, keeping an eye on Martin, who had started to pace around the room.
"Dizzy…" a rough whisper was heard from the bed. Martin froze, his gaze going to the figure on the bed. Josiah reached for the cup of ice on the over-the-bed table. Buck and Nathan moved closer.
"Hey Stud, don't try to move. You've got some busted ribs," Buck placed his hand on Chris' shoulder.
Taking some ice chips when offered, Chris's gaze fell on Martin and he stared at him. A frown crossed his face. Blinking his eyes to clear his vision, he realized who he was seeing.
"Yeah Chris, it's me."
"He's coming. Just rest. You both are safe…" Before Martin could say more, the door opened and a nurse hurried in with a computer monitor. An orderly pushing a gurney followed her into the room. Vin was lying on it. IV bags and a monitor came through the door as a couple more people entered. Martin, Buck and Nathan immediately moved out of their way. Chris, half asleep, watched as the staff transferred his brother to the bed beside him and made him comfortable.
Vin was settled in and the bustle of people headed off to their next job. The last nurse adjusted Vin's IV's and made sure the monitors were working properly before she smiled at the men and left.
Martin moved to Vin's side and ran his hand over his twin's hot face, reassuring himself that his brother was really there. He turned his head and smiled at Chris who's gaze still watched Vin.
"He's here Chris and he will be fine."
"Good." Chris's eyes slid closed in sleep.
The door opened and a tall man in a white coat walked in with a nurse and went directly to Vin's bed. "I'm Dr. Kirkland," the salt and pepper haired doctor said. He glanced at Martin then Vin and back again and began taking Vin's vitals.
"Are you all here for Agent Tanner?"
A course of ‘Yes' answered him.
"All right. We took care of his punctured lung. The left lung was repaired and the rib set as are the other ribs that were broken. We'll be monitoring him for several days. We did bandage him; I didn't want him moving too much right now. I don't want him to suffer another punctured lung. As soon as the ribs begin to heal, we'll dispense with the bandages. Agent Tanner was badly beaten across his back and lower back causing some damage to his kidneys. If this doesn't clear up in two days, we'll have to correct the problem. He has developed a light case of pneumonia, is dehydrated and has hyperthermia. We have him on a warming blanket and he's being re-hydrated," Kirkland glanced at one of the IV bags. "He is on heavy antibiotics for the scratches he suffered. He will be stiff and sore, and here for several days." The doctor informed them.
Dr. Kirkland glanced at the men in the room. His piercing gaze landed on Martin. "I would like to let these men rest. You are welcome to stay during the day, but not all night. If one of you wishes to stay with the patients' during the night, that is fine. But please, not more than two of you. The nurses will be notified. Let us know your decision."
The men nodded, and Buck looked at the doctor. "Due to what happened to Larabee and Tanner, someone will be with them at all times. We will do as you request, but they will not be left alone."
"Thank you, that is fine. I'll be back later to check on Agent Tanner." The doctor nodded to the men and left the room. After making notations on Vin's chart the nurse followed him.
The men were silent for a short time, before Danny spoke up, "I'll stay tonight, with Martin. You all can get a good night's rest and take over in the morning."
"I can stay Danny, it's no problem," Buck said.
"Brothers', let's not argue. Chris and Vin will sleep all night and what Danny said is true. We've
been running on adrenaline for days. We have to calm down and get some needed sleep. Tomorrow we'll be able to function a lot better. Martin, Danny, you need some dinner. It's after six, and none of us have eaten since breakfast. One of us will bring you something to eat. The rest will draw straws and be back tomorrow morning, after, checking in at the office and filling in Travis." Josiah stated as he looked each of his teammates in the eye.
Before anyone could say anything, Ezra spoke, "I'll acquire nourishment for Mr.'s Fitzgerald and Taylor, and then withdraw to my home."
Buck nodded. "All right. I'll be back in the morning to relieve you boys, give you a chance to rest. JD can take you to the loft or out to the ranch if you wish." He glanced at the others as they began to move toward the door. "Let's go," he said and patted Chris's leg. With a last glance at the brothers Buck turned towards the door. Josiah, Nathan, and JD followed after touching their teammates lightly.
After the men disappeared, Ezra turned to Martin and Danny, and asked, "Gentlemen, would you prefer Chinese, Mexican, Tai or something else for your dinner?"
"Anything is fine with me," Martin replied.
"I'll go with you Ezra. We aren't too picky, and I know what Martin likes, besides sweets." Danny grinned as he grabbed his jacket.
"Aww, I'd almost forgotten Mr. Fitzgerald was Mr. Tanner's counterpart," Ezra shot a wide smile at Martin, his gold tooth sparkled, and he headed for the door. "We will return posthaste with sustenance."
"Thanks Ezra, Danny, appreciate it."
After eating the Chinese dinner Ezra and Danny brought back, Ezra took his leave of the two FBI agents, leaving them with his teammates.
Martin glanced at Danny from where he sat between his brothers beds. "You should have gone with Ezra. I don't think they will awake tonight, no since you being uncomfortable too."
"It's fine Fitz. You're my partner, and I don't mind being here tonight. I'll go with you when you're ready to leave. I'm sticking with you." Danny grinned, and winked at Martin.
Shaking his head, Martin smirked. "Have a feeling Buck will be here tomorrow night. We might as well make ourselves as comfortable as we can."
"It's going to be a long night Fitz, why don't you go stretch your legs a little, before you make that chair your new home? They're asleep, if they wake I'll let you know," Danny told Martin.
"Okay, I'll be back in fifteen minutes." Martin rose and stretched. With a nod to Danny he went out the door.
Danny settled into the chair Martin had vacated. He barely got comfortable, when the door opened and a nurse walked in to check on her patients. He watched as she closely checked the two men. Completing her check on Chris and his IV's, she typed notations on his chart. She smiled at him as she moved to Vin's beside and checked him, before finishing up with Vin's IV bags.
"I'm their nurse for the night. I'll be in and out often. I'm Sharon," She told him as she moved to
type her findings in Vin's chart.
Danny smiled, "Good evening, I'm Danny. Martin, their brother, and I will here for the night."
"Hello, Danny. Is there anything I can get for you or Martin?" Sharon asked, as she finished typing on Vin's chart. "Reading material, coffee?"
"Magazine's would work. A couple of easy chairs? Coffee, would be great." Danny smiled.
Sharon grinned, "I'll bring some magazines, coffee is on, a fresh pot should be done shortly. I'll bring you both a cup. We don't have recliners but I'll see if there's a couple chairs around that are more comfortable too."
"That'd be great. Thank you. Oh on the coffee, please put a lot of sugar in one."
"I'll bring sugar, you can sweeten it yourself," Sharon said. With a last glance at her patients she left.
Martin walked up and down the long hallway several times. His thoughts were on his brothers, and he hoped they would be out of there soon. He knew neither one liked being laid up in a hospital any more than he did. He always wanted out as soon as possible. Vin would leave as soon as he could walk out the door on his own. Martin grinned, he was the same way.
As he paced, Martin didn't notice the large man that walked towards him pause. As he gazed at Martin a surprised look flashed across his face. By the time Martin reached the man, the look had disappeared and he managed a small nod to Martin as they passed each other.
With a short nod to the muscular man, Martin continued to room 617 and entered. He was unaware that the man was watching him. Once the door closed behind Martin, the man walked down the hall towards the door Martin had entered.
Simon Clarkson glanced up and down the corridor. He saw two nurses at the desk, and watched as they turned away. He moved fast, and stepped up to the door of room 617. With a quick glance, he peered into the room through the small door window. He spotted the man he'd followed talking to a black haired man, both men looking away from the door. His gaze went to the beds, and he smiled, he recognized the men.
With a long stride, Simon walked away from the door, and headed for the stairwell a short distance away. He had to get outside and make a phone call. He'd found them and earned a large bonus from the woman who kept changing her mind. She would be happy to know where the men were. He and Alfred would be living in luxury for many years. He laughed as he ran down the stairs.
The night seemed to pass in slow motion for Martin and Danny. Even though Vin woke a couple of times coughing and groaning in pain. The harsh cough would bring Chris awake, and he'd try to get out of bed and to Vin.
It was 4AM when Vin started coughing uncontrollably. Danny kept Chris in bed, while Martin held his twin as Vin coughed and struggled to breathe as he writhed in pain.
"Calm down, Vin, I'm here. Easy brother, try to relax. I've got you," Martin murmured to Vin as he pressed his head against Vin's damp one. His arms were wrapped around Vin, trying keep him from moving, so afraid that Vin would cause more damage to his ribs.
Sharon, the night nurse, appeared when the monitor alarm went off for the room. She injected a drug into Vin's IV port then pressed the button to raise the end of the bed a ways before she began to check his vitals, as she waited for the drug to take effect. At last, the harsh coughing began to ease and then finally stop. Vin leaned weakly against the warm body holding him. At last he raised his head and blinked his blurry eyes to clear them of the moisture that filled them. Once Vin's vision cleared, he looked at the familiar face holding him in confusion.
"Ma …Martin?" he rasped.
"That's right brother, it's me. You and Chris are in the hospital, you'll be fine," Martin reassured his brother.
After adjusting Vin's IV's, Sharon typed notations on his chart. Once finished she turned to Martin as she lowered the bed. "You can lay him down now Mr. Tanner. I've adjusted his medication. It should be making it easier for him to breathe and calm his cough. Dr. Kirkland will be here around six to examine him. I put in a request for an IV pump for him."
"He's really warm," Martin stated as he eased Vin down, not bothering to correct her with his last name.
"Yes, his fever has stayed the same all night, we should be able to remove the heat blanket when his doctor sees him after while. It's been on very low for him. If he is still feverish we'll be giving him an alcohol bath once the doctor sees him." She told Martin as she once more checked Vin's vitals. "Nurse Nicky will be assisting Dr. Kirkland, when he arrives." Sharon patted Vin's shoulder. "Just rest for now," she told Vin, adjusting his blanket. Then with a nod to Martin and Danny she left.
Vin's eyes opened, and he looked around the room, before his gaze went to Martin.
"Re … really here?" he rasped.
Martin took Vin's free hand, not wanting to touch the one connected to the IV lines. "Yes brother, I'm here. I got here yesterday."
"Right over there." Martin nodded to the other bed. "He'll be in here, with you, until you are both released."
"Where were … we?" Vin asked as he carefully rubbed his hand over his chest.
"We found you and Chris at the back of his property."
"Cold." Vin shivered.
Martin rose, turned, and crossed to the small closet near the door. He pulled a blanket out and covered Vin.
"Thanks …" With a sigh Vin's eyes closed and he drifted back to sleep.
Martin looked at Chris and smiled. Chris was awake and watching them. "He's asleep, now you can rest too."
With a nod Chris closed his eyes.
Danny shook his head at his partner. "I hope they get better fast. I don't think either one of them will be in here too long, no matter what condition they are in. Though Vin doesn't sound so good with that cough."
"Hopefully the drugs Vin's on will kick in. It's hard to cough like that with broken ribs," Martin answered in a quiet voice as he glanced at his partner.
Danny nodded his head. They both had suffered broken ribs and knew how painful they were. "I think I'll go see if I can scare up some fresh coffee somewhere. I'll bring you a cup full of sugar so you can stay awake awhile longer." With a grin Danny headed towards the door.
"Sounds good, thanks Danny," Martin said as the other man went out the door with a wave of his hand. Martin walked around the room, looking at his bothers before he stepped to the window and gazed out at the city that lay below their sixth-floor window. The city streetlights reflected off glassy looking asphalt. An occasional set of headlights passed on the quiet thoroughfare. Faint clouds moved overhead, the streetlights reflected off them. But the rain still came down. He shivered, thinking how cold the rain was and what could have happened to Vin and Chris if they hadn't found them earlier.
A noise behind him drew Martin around thinking it was Danny. Instead he saw another nurse bending over Chris.
For a moment Martin watched her as she placed her hand on Chris's forehead then brushed his fair hair back. She seemed to be whispering something to him.
"Can I help you nurse?" Martin asked as he moved towards Chris's bed.
The woman straightened up and looked at Martin, her dark eyes going over him. "No, I was just checking on the patients before I left for the day. Mr. Larabee happened to be a little restless, but he seems to be resting well now. I'll be leaving," she said and with a touch to Chris's shoulder she turned away.
Martin saw a flash of white on the side of her head under her dark hair. As she went out the door he thought it was over her ear, and made a mental note to ask about her. He hadn't noticed a name badge on her smock.
He was still staring at the door when Danny walked in, carrying two large Styrofoam cups of coffee. Danny paused seeing the look on Martin's face.
"What's wrong Fitz?"
With a blink Martin looked at Danny as the tall man stepped towards him. He shook his head. "Did you see the dark haired nurse that just came out of here?"
"Not really. Saw the back of a nurse by the nurses' station. Why?" Danny handed Martin one of
the covered cups.
"She was bending over Chris. She said she was checking on the patients before she left, that he was restless. He hasn't moved. She left, she had what looked like a bandage on the side of her head, I think over her ear. I don't remember seeing a name tag on her."
"She could have been checking on them, one of their earlier nurses maybe."
"I don't know, seemed odd. Think I'll ask about her when Kirkland and Nicky come to exam Vin," Martin replied as he took a drink of his coffee.
Danny leaned against the wall beside the window and gazed at the two sleeping figures in front of him before his dark eyes turned back to Martin. "We know whoever did this is still out there. Maybe we need a guard at the door? To make sure no one gets in here that isn't supposed to."
Martin ran a hand over his face. He was tired and knew he needed sleep, but he'd gone days without it before and he could do it again if need be. He looked at Danny. "How would they know where they are? There's been nothing said to the press or anyone about the bust, kidnapping, or them being found. The only people who know are the team and Travis."
"There is also the ER, and the doctors and nurses who have been treating them. What if the kidnapper called to see if one or the other had been admitted?"
"Damn. I'll have to ask Buck. I thought that one of the men mentioned they were going to speak to the hospital office about not giving any information out."
"Things were happening so fast it probably got forgotten," Danny reasoned. He tried to remember some of the conversations that went on while they were waiting. A small grin crossed his lips as he remembered Martin pacing while the rest of them talked. He then remembered that Josiah suggested they tell the office to deny there was a Larabee or Tanner on the premises. Ezra and Josiah were going to talk to the administrator about it.
"Hey Fitz, I do remember. Josiah and Ezra were going to talk to someone. I think they did. Ask one of them about this when they get here."
"I will Danny. Thanks."
The door opened and Dr. Kirkland and a nurse entered.
"Good morning," Dr. Kirkland said as he moved to Vin's bedside. "This is Nicky, my nurse today." He smiled.
Danny shot a glance at the window and noticed that the sky was a lot lighter, even though it was still raining. ‘I thought Denver had nicer weather,' he thought as he and Martin replied to the doctor's greeting.
Martin moved away from his twin's bed as the doctor began his examination. They both moved closer to the window to be out of the way of the doctor and nurse.
Vin heard something and dragged himself from the dark swirling abyss towards the light that lit the end of the long dark tunnel. With an effort he opened his eyes and blinked in the light that flooded the
"Well good morning, Mr. Tanner," Vin heard as he blinked several times. The light dimmed and he managed to keep his eyes open. He saw a man in a light green smock bending over him. He could feel the man's hands on him, moving gently over his ribs.
"Nicky, give Mr. Tanner some ice chips," the doctor told the woman beside him. "I'm Doctor Kirkland, your doctor. Can you take a deep breath for me?" He asked as he positioned his stethoscope to listen to Vin's chest.
After enjoying several pieces of ice, Vin began to take a couple deep breaths. As he drew another deep breath he began to cough uncontrollably. Pain lanced through his chest and spread to his broken ribs. Vin tried curl up and felt hands on him as he shifted between the coughs. A groan of pain escaped his lips.
As the medication, that had been injected into his IV, took effect the coughing and pain eased. Vin shook in reaction. With care, he rolled onto his back and blinked away the tears that had filled his eyes. He saw the doctor's concerned face above him and heard him talking, not sure that he heard everything the man said.
"I'm sorry that set you off. I've upped your medication and changed the other one. I believe we have the right combination this time. You should begin to get rid of that sputum a lot easier now that is in your lungs." The doctor told him.
Too worn out to do anything more than nod Vin, let his eyes slide closed as he returned to sleep.
Kirkland continued with his exam, finishing with Vin's injured wrists. Having made sure there was no infection, he ordered fresh bandages. When he stepped back to let Nicky work he glanced at Martin.
"He is doing well. I didn't find any infection. His surgery incision and the other cuts and wounds are beginning to heal. I've changed out his medicines, the new ones should help ease his cough and clear up his lungs. Rest is top priority for him. His temperature is back to normal. The heat blanket will be removed shortly."
"Can you leave the blanket for today Doctor? He gets cold real easy, he seems comfortable with it right now," Martin asked.
The doctor studied his patient for a moment, then nodded his head. "We can leave it low, he shouldn't get to warm. Nicky will you check on him every two hours?"
"I'll keep watch on him Dr. Kirkland. The control is where he can reach it if he gets cold again," Nicky said as she finished taping the new bandage in place on Vin's wrist. She gathered the discarded bandages, checked the control then nodded to the doctor. She sent a smile at Martin.
"All done," she said.
Martin nodded, "Thank you. Ma'am, Doctor."
"I will return after lunch to check Mr. Tanner again." The doctor said as he headed for the door.
As Kirkland and Nicky exited, Dr. Michaels walked in and moved to Chris's bedside, his nurse
following him. He nodded to the two men and started to examine his patient. A short time later he had the bandages on Chris's wrists off. He checked each wrist and then stepped back to let his nurse rewrap the injuries.
Martin's gaze met the doctors. "How is he?"
"He is improving satisfactorily. I didn't find any infection, and his wrists look very well. He can move his fingers and that is a good sign. He lucked out; there is no sign of pneumonia. His ribs haven't shifted so that is excellent. We need to make sure he doesn't move too quick or bend yet. We will have him sit up for a little while later today."
"With the broken ribs, is it good to let him up already?" Danny asked.
"He won't be out of his bed, just sitting upright, on a soft mattress. The sooner we can get him off his back, the better it is. His chance of developing pneumonia is less."
"Oh. I didn't think of that. Thanks," Danny replied.
"Welcome. I'll be on my way; he is doing well," Michaels said and with a nod at Martin he left. A couple of minutes later the nurse finished bandaging Chris's wrists and also departed.
Martin sat down between the two beds once more. Danny's gaze turned to him, a concerned look on his face.
Grinning Martin smiled at the taller man. "I'm fine Danny, just tired all of a sudden."
"You didn't get much sleep the last couple of nights, well none last night. So of course you're tired. Someone should be here soon to relieve us. I plan to sleep the day away," Danny yawned.
With a chuckle Martin said, "Me too. I think I can sleep now."
"Yep, they are safe and getting better. They'll be out of here soon."
"Damn!" Martin jumped up drawing a puzzled frown from Danny. "I forgot to ask about that nurse. Want to ask the other nurses too. I'll go do that right now before I forget again." With that Martin hurried out the door. Danny shook his head as he turned back to the window with another wide yawn.
Martin walked to the nurse's desk where an older nurse smiled at him. "Can I help you?" she asked.
Martin identified himself and asked her about the nurse he'd seen in his brothers' room without a name tag.
For several moments the nurse thought, then shook her head. "None of my nurses fit that description. I know none of them with a bandage on her head. They would not be allowed to attend a patient without a doctors' okay if they had a sore or wound. No one knows the men's real names; they are listed under John and Jim Doe. I don't believe anyone knows who they really are other than their doctors and immediate care nurses. A few of us know them as they have been here before, we were asked not to mention who they are, and we haven't. No one on the other floors would know that. Is there a problem?"
"A nurse came in and was talking to Chris, said she was going off shift and wanted to check on him."
The nurse shook her head. "No, she isn't one of my floor nurses."
"We need a guard on the door. I'll get a hold of someone and get it taken care of. ID's will be needed to get into their room." Martin said as a sick feeling went through him.
"I'll advise the staff Agent Fitzgerald. The doctors and nurses all have ID's. I will notify security and have a man here until one of the agents take over."
"Thank you. I appreciate you doing that. I'll contact the team and get to work on security." Martin turned and headed back to his brother's room.
Thinking on which of his brothers' teammates to contact first, to arrange a guard set up, Martin didn't pay attention to passing nurses who were busy. He debated whether he needed to contact AD Travis to let him know what was going on. He didn't notice the two large men who stepped from the stairwell behind him. An arm went around his neck as another wrapped across his arms, and with a hard jerk he was hauled backwards, his feet lifting off the floor.
Martin struggled as he was dragged into the semi-dark stairwell. With his arms pinned he still twisted and his feet lashed at the man's legs. He sensed another man beside him and kicked out at him as a foul smelling cloth was pressed over his mouth and nose. For another minute he fought desperately to get free before the chloroform took effect and he blacked out. Martin didn't feel anything as one man lifted him and tossed him over his shoulder.
Through the layers of darkness, Vin heard someone talking and finally forced his eyes open and fighting the weary feeling, looked around. He heard Chris's voice and turned his head. Chris was lying on the bed next to him talking to a tall black haired man.
Vin gazed at the man for several moments, wondering who he was before his mind clicked on his name. Danny Taylor, FBI agent from New York City. His gaze went around the room as he looked for Martin, remembering that he'd been there earlier. He turned his eyes back to Danny and Chris when he didn't see Martin anywhere in the room.
"Martin?" Vin asked in a weary voice.
Danny turned towards the long haired twin, a smile on his face. "Hey, Vin. Martin stepped out for a minute, he'll be right back. Nice to see you awake."
"How're you feeling?" Chris asked looking over at Vin.
"Tired, hungry, sore," Vin rasped with a slight grin.
Before any more words were said the door opened and a young woman walked in, carrying two breakfast trays that she placed one on each of the rolling tables. A nurse followed her in and went to Vin's bed.
"Good morning. I'm your nurse for the day, my name's Jill. I'm going to raise your bed a little so
you can eat. We'll take it very slow and easy," she said as she manipulated the bed controls.
Vin's upper body slowly raised as the nurse pressed the controls. When he reached a certain height she stopped. Making sure he was comfortable, she pulled the table close so he could reach the food. She then turned to Chris's bed.
"Good morning, I'm Jill. If either of you men need anything just hit the call button. Now let's get you situated so you can eat your breakfast." She smiled as she picked up the controls.
As Jill carefully worked Chris's bed, Danny went to the door and looked out, wondering where Martin had gone. Not seeing him in the busy hallway he moved back to the chair they'd placed by the window.
Jill finished settling Chris and glanced at the worried Danny.
"Is there something I can help you with?"
Danny shook his head, "My partner went to the nurse's station to ask a few questions. I thought he'd be back by now."
"Maybe he ran down to the cafeteria to surprise you with breakfast?"
"Not without stopping in here first. I'll give him a couple more minutes," Danny sighed.
"I'm sure he'll be back shortly," Jill said then left.
Vin studied Danny for a long minute. His eyes traveled over the worried face before he started to eat the oatmeal on his tray. His thoughts turned to Martin and he tried to connect with his twin. He knew for sure if Martin could ‘hear' him in New York City, he should be able to hear him in the hospital. He cocked his head and sent out his thoughts.
Danny glanced at the twin when Vin's hand dropped to the bed. He noticed Chris also looking towards the young man, his head cocked like Vin's. Wondering if something was wrong, he stepped towards Chris's bed and stopped abruptly at Chris's raised hand.
"Vin?" Chris asked in a whisper. He could ‘hear' Vin calling for Martin through the strange bond they shared. He tried to contact Martin also, but he could feel nothing but a silent void.
With Chris and Danny's attention on Vin, none of them noticed the door open and two men walk in, letting the door silently close behind them.
"Hey boys, great to see you eating," Buck's voice rang out in the silent room.
The three men jumped, their gazes flashing to Buck and Ezra. Ezra instantly picked up that something had happened.
"Gentlemen, what is amiss?"
Danny glanced at Vin and Chris then answered, "Martin hasn't returned from visiting the nurses' station. He went to ask about a nurse that came in here earlier. We think it could have been that Gains woman. We wanted to talk to you, well the team, about getting a guard on the door. Martin's not back and it's been over twenty minutes.
"I'll check on Mr. Fitzgerald." Ezra rushed out the door before Buck could turn around.
Vin pushed his table away breakfast forgotten. "Nothing. I can't reach or feel him."
Buck and Danny exchanged a look before Buck turned to Vin. Chris turned to them as his table was shoved out of the way.
"Don't even think about trying to get out of those beds. You'll only cause yourselves more problems. We'll take care of this so you might as well eat your breakfasts. We're on it." Buck ordered as he saw how both injured men had grabbed and tossed their blankets back in preparation of getting out of their beds. At his words, Buck hid his grin as he watched the two pull the blankets back over themselves.
Vin felt his face flush with color, and let his hand flip the blanket to cover him once more. He heard Chris huff as he did the same thing.
"Well get on with it then. What are you standing there for?" Chris growled.
"We will stud. But we need to ask you a few questions now that you're both finally awake enough to answer them," Buck stated. At Chris's glare he continued.
"What do you remember Vin? We found a dead guy, and your rifle and a trail in the dust."
Vin shook his head. Running a shaky hand over his face he replied, "I came out the door and got jumped by four men on the landing. I managed to knock one over the railing but too many other ones
were there. This one huge guy grabbed me around the neck and pinned my arms. Another guy jabbed a needle into my shoulder, by my neck. I felt them drag me down the steps and saw two men by the lower door. Then I's thrown into a rig and hit my head, then nothing 'til I woke up hanging from the tree. I was blindfolded and gagged. Most of my clothes gone. Chris was there too. Never seen anyone, just felt them and that bitch woman. Got worked over a couple of times. Finally woke up on the ground with Chris, then ya'll arrived."
Nodding his head Buck turned to Chris.
With a sigh Chris spoke, "I ran out the door, someone grabbed me, hit me with a needle and threw me into a van almost on top of Vin. Came to hanging from the tree. Blindfolded, gagged and half naked. We had company after awhile. Got pounded on and a crazy bitch touching and demanding … Bit her on the ear once. Later, I managed to get one hand loose and grabbed her. Forced her to release Vin, then me. Two big guys were with her, did everything she told them to do. They didn't talk; laughed a bit, but she … she … Ella Gains … Killed my family …" Chris stuttered to a stop. Buck's hand held onto his arm and he felt Vin's thoughts.
**Easy Chris, we'll find her**
With a nod Chris looked up. "I saw her and the two muscle men. She's got dark hair and a bandage on one ear, I bit it badly."
As the other men grinned, Danny chuckled, "Martin said the nurse he saw in here had a bandage on the side of her head. He thought the bandage covered her ear."
"Get the tapes from security, we need to go over them. I know this hospital has cameras all over
the place," Chris ordered.
"Already on the way Mr. Larabee," Ezra, who had returned moments ago, and was standing near the door.
The men's gazes went to the well dressed undercover agent, not having noticed him enter the room.
"I have conversed with the head nurse on this floor. Mr. Fitzgerald had talked to her about the injured nurse. There are many women on the staff of this hospital, but none of them have a bandage on the side of their heads. I talked with the head of security, chief Bollinger. They are bringing the tapes here posthaste. I have also contacted our compatriots and they will be here soon. We will go over the tapes as soon as they, and our teammates arrive. We will find Mr. Fitzgerald."
"Thanks Ez," Vin said. "He shouldn't have been involved."
Danny placed his hand on Vin's shoulder causing him to look up at the tall man. "Martin is your twin, and Chris's brother. He knew what was happening to you well before anyone else. He's the one who saw where you were being held. If it wasn't for him, you and Chris could still be hanging out there, dead, or never found. Martin wouldn't change a thing."
"But he …"
"No Vin, you two are more important than anything or anyone else in his life, no matter what happened or will happen. Now, you two just have to get better, we'll find him." Danny sincerely told the brothers.
A knock on the door brought everyone's attention to it as it opened to admit Josiah, Nathan and a sleepy looking JD.
"Good morning brothers," Josiah said as he stepped to the side to let Nathan go straight to Vin and Chris as the other's exchanged greetings.
JD moved to Chris's rolling table and handing the breakfast tray to Buck, he sat his laptop on it.
Chris grinned at the young agent, "Always prepared JD?"
A slight blush touched JD's cheeks as he looked at one of his hero's. "Yes sir. Never leave home without it."
Buck clapped his roommate on the shoulder after sitting Chris's breakfast tray on Vin's table. "That's my boy. Teaching him everything I know."
JD moved away from the larger man with a shake of his head as smiles crossed the men's faces. Josiah shook his head and asked, "What's going on? Any word on Martin?"
"We're waiting for the security tapes to be brought up. We'll go from there," Buck stated.
A knock on the door had the men's head's turning as it swung open and a tall grey haired man in a dark brown uniform walked in.
"I'm Security Chief Joe Bollinger. I have the DVD tapes for this floor and the stairwell showing the last several hours Agent Standish asked for. I've got a DVD player coming, be here in a minute."
The words were barely out of his mouth when a knock sounded on the door, and another man in a security uniform walked in pushing a cabinet. He paused as Buck and Nathan moved from between the two beds, then rolled it into place. He took the DVD player out and hooked it up.
Within minutes the curtain was drawn over the window, and the men were standing by the beds. Bollinger, after dismissing the other security guard, turned on the player and started to scroll through the DVD.
Several minutes later Chris exclaimed, "There, that's Gains."
Bollinger zoomed in on the woman who stood outside their door. They watched as she buttoned up the smock top she wore. She glanced at the large man behind her, and with the movement they all spotted the white bandage on the side of her head, partly hidden under her dark hair.
"That's one of the men who helped her."
"Can we get a printout of those two?" Buck asked, thinking he'd seen her before, but not sure when or where. The look on Chris's face was full of hate and he quickly looked away.
"Yes, just a moment," Bollinger said as he noted the spot and wrote numbers on the notepad he held in his hand. "As soon as I get back to my office I'll have it printed out for you and send it up here."
"Someone go with him," Chris ordered.
"I will," JD volunteered.
At Chris's nod, Bollinger moved the tape along. They watched as the woman hastened out of the room and pulled off the smock as she and the man hurried to the stairway door. Another camera caught them as they rushed down the steps.
Bollinger fast forwarded a ways, and they saw Martin walk down the hall to the nurses' station. Then a few minutes later watched as he walked slowly back towards the room. As he passed the stairwell two men step out and grabbed him, an arm went around his neck and the other pinned his arms to his sides. They saw Martin struggling as they dragged him into the stairwell. The other camera picked up and they watched as the second man pressed a cloth tight over Martin's mouth and nose, and moments later Martin collapsed. The man held the cloth over his face for another two minutes before Martin's limp form was picked up and thrown over one man's shoulder. Then together the two men rushed down the stairs with their unconscious burden.
Bollinger's fingers flew over the control and moments later another picture popped up. The two men were coming out of the stairway door. They had Martin between them, his arms over their shoulders. It looked as if they were helping a friend through the exit door and into the parking garage. A dark SUV pulled up beside them, and they quickly threw the unconscious man into the back seat. One of the large men got in with him while the other ran around to the driver's side. They watched the woman as she slid over into the passenger seat, then spotted a flash of white on her head before the vehicle accelerated and disappeared.
"Can you zoom in on the license?" JD asked as his fingers flew over his keyboard.
"Just a minute," Bollinger said as he worked the control of the player. "There, that's the best I can get," he said as a close-up of the back of the SUV came into focus.
JD typed the make, color and what he thought could be the year of the vehicle, then looking at the picture again, typed what he could see of the license number. The license number was a little fuzzy but clear enough to bring up all but the last number.
As Bollinger disconnected his equipment, JD was still busy typing. A small smile crossed his lips as he typed. Names and numbers began to roll across the screen and his smile widened. Bollinger bid the agents a good day and promised to have a guard in place as soon as he returned to his office. The man would be posted there until someone arrived from the ATF offices or police. He left. Ezra, seeing that JD was working hard on the laptop followed the man out, to pick up the pictures Bollinger promised.
"JD?" Chris tiredly asked.
"Almost there Chris, should have something in a minute."
"All right. Nathan, see when we can get out of here. We aren't safe here, even with a guard. Be safer at the ranch."
"Chris, Vin just had surgery, you both are battered and have broken ribs. Vin is fighting pneumonia. Your doctors won't release you for a few more days." Nathan informed him.
"We can sign ourselves out, but I don't want to do that. You and the others can take care of us and we'll be safer." Chris argued with his sleepy eyed brother agreeing with him from the other bed.
"Found it! Dang Chris, it says it belongs to a Mrs. Christopher Larabee, at your address." JD announced.
For a full minute, silence reigned in the hospital room at JD's words.
Chris reacted first. "What the hell is she up to?" he spat out.
"Calm down Chris, we'll get it figured out." Buck placed his hand on the irate blonds' shoulder.
"She's after you Chris. Wants ya so bad she'll do anything," Vin said quietly. "What or who will she hurt next? We can't let her hurt anyone in the hospital. Get us out of here."
Nathan opened his mouth to argue then closed it. Josiah squeezed his shoulder with his large hand. "I'll go with you Nathan. All we can do is talk to the doctors. None of us want anyone here injured or killed because of this woman."
Nathan nodded then looked at the two pale, bruised men. "If this happens you both will listen and do as you're told or you'll be back in here so fast your heads will be spinning."
"Thanks, Nathan." Vin closed his eyed and went to sleep.
"We will Nathan, we'll feel safer at the ranch," Chris said as he relaxed a little.
Josiah and Nathan left to locate and talk to the two doctors. Buck sat down in a chair as Danny leaned against the window. JD was still working on his computer.
A light knock on the door had the men reaching for guns as they looked at the opening door. They relaxed when a young lady walked in. She smiled at them and said, "Good morning. I'm just picking up breakfast trays." She moved to the rolling table that held Chris and Vin's mostly uneaten food trays. She shook her head, "You need to eat more to heal."
"Food that looks and tastes like food would help," Chris answered without opening his eyes.
"I agree, but it is nutritious," she replied with a laugh as she picked up the trays. "Maybe lunch will taste better." With a smile she headed for the door, Buck opened it for her and with a ‘Thank you' she went out.
Buck watched while she sat the trays on a large cart then pushed it to the next room. He noticed the large security man leaning against the wall several feet from the door and nodded when the man tipped his head at him.
"Security is outside," Buck stated as he closed the door.
"Excellent," Ezra said. "I would suggest that you, Mr. Larabee and Mr. Tanner, rest while you can. I have a feeling that if you are released from this establishment you will not follow your doctors' counsel."
Vin's hand rose into a one fingered salute before dropping back to the bed and snaking under the blankets.
Buck laughed as the other men smiled. "Thought you were asleep Junior."
"Ya'll's yakking too much. Body can't sleep with all that noise goin' on." Came the raspy reply followed by a cough that shook Vin's thin frame.
Ezra moved quickly to Vin's bed and poured a glass of water. When Vin stopped coughing, he eased Vin up so he could drink.
Gratefully, Vin sipped the cold water and finished the drink then handed Ezra the empty glass. "Thanks Ez, that hit the spot."
With a long suffering look over the butchering of his name, Ezra helped the injured man to lay back down. "You are welcome Mr. Tanner. Now rest, we have your back," he said as he pulled the blankets up over the sleepy eyed sharpshooter.
A slight nod from the tousled head was his reply as Vin's eyes slid closed.
Ezra glanced at Buck and Danny and shook his head a little. They knew Chris and Vin needed to stay put, at least for a few more days, but both men were too stubborn to listen to reason.
Buck shrugged, and Danny grinned, thinking the man was as stubborn as his boss. Buck knew once Chris made up his mind, nothing short of being comatose would stop him. Vin was just as hard headed, if not more so.
The two injured men fell asleep and the room became silent except for the slight sound of the
laptop keys as JD continued to work.
An hour later, they heard Josiah and Nathan's voices outside the room. Buck opened the door and motioned for the men to be quiet before they entered the room.
The men held a whispered conversation as Chris and Vin slept. Their doctors would check them after lunch and decide. Nathan would have to stay with them. And since Rain was a doctor, and knew the men well, she would be in charge if they were released. They agreed that the two would listen to her better than Nathan on his own. They would make sure that at least two of the seven would be at the ranch at all times, not counting Nathan.
Danny, though feeling like an outsider, reminded them he'd be there so only one other would be necessary.
Buck clapped the young man on the shoulder. "You really want to put up with two grouchy agents?"
Grinning Danny replied, "Can't be any worse than a grouchy boss who will twist your tail until you think you're heads going to pop off if you don't do what he says."
The men laughed at his words.
"Martin is my partner, I'll be here for him and his brothers."
"Can always use the help Danny," Buck said.
"Welcome to the Brotherhood, Mr. Taylor." Ezra added smiling.
"Team Seven Brotherhood that is," JD quipped as he glanced up from the laptop. The men nodded in agreement.
"Thanks, I appreciate being one of you."
"How about we go get you something to eat? It will be awhile before these two wake up again, so you have time for breakfast," Buck asked, with one eyebrow raised he looked at Danny.
Danny nodded his head, "Sounds good, it has been awhile since I've eaten."
"I'll go too. I didn't have time to grab anything when we left home," JD said shutting down his computer and rising from where he'd been.
"We'll hold the fort, brothers." Josiah took the seat JD vacated.
Nathan looked over the two sleeping men, checking for any fever. He then took the other chair and with a sigh glanced out the window, wondering where Martin was.
Something brushed across his face, and Martin jerked and tried to sweep it away. He frowned when his hand didn't move, then tried to figure out why his hand wouldn't obey his command. Memory washed over him and his eyes snapped open. For an instant his vision was blurry, then with a blink it cleared, and he noticed a pretty dark haired woman in front of him, a thoughtful look on her face. One of her fingers was tapping her chin as she studied him.
Martin turned his gaze from the woman and glanced around, wondering where he was. His arms were tied above his head, his shirt and shoes were gone he realized, and he glanced upwards. The tree limb was long and thick, and attached to a large maple tree. He recognized where he was. In the same little clearing where Vin and Chris had been, hanging under the same tree even.
For an instant, he thought it was really stupid of the woman to bring him back to the same place she'd had his brothers. He clamped down on his thoughts, not wanting her to see what he was thinking. Hoping she couldn't read his face. Martin looked back at her.
"What am I going to do to you, you're thinking aren't you?" Ella asked running a hand over his naked chest.
Martin kept his lips closed and fought to keep still, not wanting to react to her. With that thought going through his head, he replied, "Figure you'll turn me loose so I can go home."
Ella laughed and continued to stroke him. "I don't think so. I want my Chris. Since Tanner isn't available and you are, I will use you in Tanner's place and my love will come to me."
"Who are you?" Martin questioned as he twisted his hands trying to get them free.
"You're not getting free so you can stop trying. You are tied better than Tanner was. I am Chris's true love." She sighed. "He's a little upset with me right now, but I'm sure he'll calm down and come to me. We are meant to be together. He knows how much I love him, and he does really love me."
"If he loves you and will come to you, why did you kidnap me? Or Tanner?"
She sighed and ran both of her hands over his chest, enjoying the feel of him. "My love is a little stubborn and needs to be persuaded sometimes. Tanner, he is a always with my Chris. He would do anything for Tanner. You," she cocked her head as she looked him over, her fingers splayed over his chest. "You could be Tanner, you just need longer hair. You could be his twin." A cunning look came into her eyes. "I think you are his twin. You were in the hospital with him, watching over him." Her eyes turned hard. "You were there with my Love, and Tanner. Now I have you and Chris will come for you, Mr. Tanner, and I will have my love at long last. You, and the other Tanner, will be taken care of." She glanced over Martin's shoulder and nodded her head as she dropped her hands.
Martin didn't expect the blow that landed on his lower back that took his breath away. The second blow over the small of his back, and instantly a third on his right side caused him to cry out in pain. Several more strikes to his lower back and sides pushed him towards darkness.
The beating stopped as fast as it had started. Martin tried to raise his head to look at the crazy woman but he couldn't. Trembling with pain he managed to gasp out one word in a whisper, "Why?"
Her hands were on him again, running over his chest and then sliding down under his waistband, touching him while he was too weak to stop her. After what seemed an hour one of her hands rose to cup his chin and lift his head up.
Martin's eyes were half open and his view was filled with her smiling face.
"Why, you ask," she grinned and licked the side of his mouth. "Because I can, and you and Tanner can do nothing about it. You are both expendable. My love was so confused by others, all he could think about was to free that bastard. He wouldn't listen to me. Now I have you and I will enjoy you until he comes to me. He will come. He knows how much I love him. He'll see how much I can do for him. My love is so great for him, he will without a doubt see that I will get rid of anyone who stands in my way. In our way. He is mine!" She tightened her hand that gripped her prisoner's balls and penis so tight he gasped for breath.
Martin tried to hold back the scream that came from him. Her hand squeezed and twisted him so hard he was on the verge of passing out from the pain in his crotch. A blow to the side of his head was the last he felt as he dropped into blessed unconsciousness.
Ella stepped back, releasing the nice package she'd been grasping so hard. A cruel smile crossed her face as she watched the hanging man. He had a nice feel to him, but her love was better. The rain that had held off for awhile was starting to fall once more. She swiped at the water on her face. Then smirked at the unconscious man before she turned and headed to the SUV parked a little ways away. Her two muscle men followed her. Minutes later only the lone figure was left, hanging in the clearing as the rain began to come down harder.
Chris woke with a start and glanced around the room. Vin was still asleep in the bed next to him. Josiah, Ezra and Nathan were quietly talking by the window. For a long moment he watched his teammates and tried to figure out what had awakened him. He looked at Vin, what little he could see of him since blankets covered much of him and watched the younger man sleep as he gathered his scattered thoughts.
His mind twisted around and around as he worked at piecing together the dream that seemed to be part of the nightmare he and Vin had suffered through.
Vin stirred and tried to snuggle more into the heated blanket. Chris watched as the sharpshooter settled again into sleep. A flash of the tree limb they'd been tied to went through his head and he shivered as he felt the cold rain soak into him.
"Damn," Chris exclaimed as he pulled at the blankets around him, unaware the conversation at the window had abruptly stopped.
Nathan was beside Chris's bed, he untangled then pulled the blankets up for Chris.
"What's going on?" Chris growled as Nathan tucked the blanket around his arm that was connected to the IV line.
"Your doctors agreed to let you both leave, only after they check you over after lunch. But, if they aren't happy with their findings it will be a no-go. Rain and I will be there to take care of you along with guards."
"And you, Mr. Larabee and Mr. Tanner, will have to abide by your doctor's instructions without comment or dispute. And with one wrong utterance or insubordinate problem and you will be incarcerated in this institute once more," Ezra said, with a smile from the foot of the bed.
"We will make sure you both are returned here at the drop of a hat. So Brother, best you listen and obey," Josiah added with a toothy grin.
"Any'thin ta get outta here," Vin's raspy voice cut in.
As Nathan turned towards Vin Chris smiled at the sleepy look on the younger man's face.
"We'll be cut lose this afternoon," Chris said then noticed they were missing a few men. "Where's the others?"
"Buck and JD took Danny to get something to eat. They should be back shortly," Nathan answered.
"You have a few hours before your doctors arrive to check you over one last time. You might as well go back to sleep. Have a feeling neither one of you will have much sleep once you are out of here," Josiah said.
Vin and Chris exchanged a glance before they agreed. With a sigh Vin nodded his head, "I'm still tired." Before anyone could say anything his eyes slid closed and a moment later he was asleep.
Amid chuckles and smiles Chris shook his head before turning serious. "I need some of you to check out my place again. Especially where we were found. I have an odd feeling that crazy bitch might have taken Martin back there."
"She is crazy if she did," exclaimed Nathan.
"Yep. But it has to be checked when we get to the ranch. She is unpredictable, but I've got this feeling. Check it out." Chris insisted before sleep overtook him.
Cold and wetness penetrated the young man hanging from the tree limb by his wrists. Rain slashed him through the foliage of the tree.
Shivering, Martin lifted his head a little and looked around. He wondered how long he'd been there. With the rain coming steadily down, it was a grey chilly day.
For several minutes, he tried to feel his brothers and finally gave up. He figured they were asleep or drugged enough they couldn't connect with him. Glancing up at his wrists, he began to try to work the bindings loose from the limb. He hoped the rain had softened the ropes enough that he could slip his hands free.
Martin wasn't sure how much time had passed. His wrists were looser in their bindings and blood mingled with the rain on his upraised arms. He felt hopeful that he would have them lose before nightfall caught him. He kept the struggle up not caring about the blood or the pain from his wrists. He didn't care he wanted to be free.
A noise in the dusk had him freeze in place. He shot a glance over his aching shoulder to see who had arrived, hoping it was the ATF agents. His heart sank at the sight of the dark SUV stopping nearby.
‘Damn,' he thought as he turned his head away. ‘What does she want now?'
The woman appeared in front of him before he could think of any reason. The smell of her
perfume pulled his eyes to her face from where he had been staring at the ground.
An umbrella in Simon's hand protected her. Her dark eyes were full of anger as she ran her hands over him, and then under his waistband.
"Wh …what do … you want?" Martin rasped, the feel of her hands on him making him stutter for a moment.
"Aren't you happy to see me?" She purred. "I didn't want you to feel all alone out here in the wild woods. Poor thing, you are so cold and wet. I'll help you get a little warmer."
Martin tried to step back from her groping hands only to bump into a hard body behind him. He snarled as her hands gripped him tightly. He wanted to lash out at her but remembered what happened to his brothers. Sucking in some air, he tried to relax hoping she would release him.
Ella smiled as she played with the Tanner look-alike. She enjoyed the look on the young man's face as she fisted him and worked him. She liked the feel of him trying not to respond to her attention. Finally her smiled died, as she remembered the reason she was out in this god-forsaken weather. Her hands tightened on him until he cried out in pain.
"Where are they?" she pulled one hand up and slapped him across his face as hard as she could.
"Where are they?" she snarled.
"Who?" Martin gasped through the pain from her grip on him and the ringing in his head.
"My Chris and that bastard Tanner." Ella screamed, striking him with a fist, knocking the umbrella out of Simon's hand. The big man stood solidly against the hanging man's back so he couldn't move away from her.
Martin could do nothing to protect himself from the blows she rained down on him with both of her hands, having released him. A feeling of relief went through him, Chris and Vin were away from the hospital and safe.
Twisting a bit, Martin yelled, "I don't know!"
So consumed with anger, Ella Gains barely heard the voice that called out. Her hands were hurting and her blows were slowing down. When his second yell of "I don't know" reached her brain she hesitated.
She stepped back and breathing hard she looked at the young man, her hands tingled and ached from beating him. His chest and abdomen were red from the blows. She smiled at her work, she had warmed him up nicely she thought.
Calmly Ella picked up the umbrella and handed it to Simon. Simon shook it off then held it over her head.
"Where are they?"
Taking a deep breath and lifting pain-filled blue eyes Martin's gaze focused on the hateful, crazy woman. "I don't know! They were in the hospital. That's all I know."
"You were there, with them. And in the hall, you know. Where are they?"
"I DON'T KNOW. They were asleep when I was there. I'd gone to see when their doctors were coming to check them. They were in their room asleep." Martin growled at the woman.
Ella nodded to someone and a fist connected with Martin's side. Martin's breath left him and his head dropped.
"I will find my love without your help. You can hang here until I decide what to do with you for your lies." A hand gripped his head and jerked it upright. Ella placed her hand on his chin and held his head up, her dark eyes staring into his blue ones.
"We'll be back. You better figure out where my Chris is or you'll die here." Stepping back Ella nodded to Alfred who quickly struck out, his heavy fists landing on the unprotected body several times before he followed Ella, who strolled under the umbrella being held by his brother, as if she owned the world.
Ella waited for the door to the SUV to be opened, and studied the limp figure hanging from the tree limb. Albert caught up and opened the door for her, and with a huff, she climbed in and soon the only noise in the clearing was the rain coming through the trees.
Hours later Martin shivered and reached for his blanket only to come to a shuddering halt. He was so cold he could hear and feel his teeth chattering as waves of pain washed through him. Groaning, he lifted his head to the rain. Opening his mouth he tried to get a few drops of water. He forced his eyes open as he stood savoring the little water that fell into his mouth. He noticed that it was totally dark, he could see nothing, just hear the rain in the trees. Shivering he dropped his head, his shoulders slumped, and he cursed the woman who was totally out of her mind. He couldn't believe how obsessed with Chris she was and how she would do anything to get him.
Frustrated Martin let out a yell of pain and anger. Nothing answered him but the sound of the wind in the trees and the beat of the rain.
Vin's eyes flew open and for several long minutes he lay trying to figure out what woke him. He wondered where he was, as he glanced around the room. The dimly lit lamp on the nightstand brought his memory back; he was at the ranch in the room that was dubbed ‘Vin's room.' Slowly he sat up and swung his legs off the bed. For several minutes he sat there trying to control the pain in his back and get his thoughts in order.
He didn't remember much of the trip from the hospital to the ranch. Their doctor, Kirkland and Michaels, gave them pain relief injections before they were released. Prescriptions for antibiotics, painkillers and drugs to fight pneumonia were filled by Josiah while the doctors gave Nathan instructions for their care. They'd left the hospital finally just after 2:30PM, and barely out of the hospital parking lot, he and Chris were asleep. Reaching the ranch, Buck, Josiah and Nathan had helped them into the house. The support was more like carrying them, Vin couldn't remember if his feet touched the ground. They were inside and rushed to their beds immediately. He vaguely remembered settling into the warmth of the bed and quilts.
Shaking his head, Vin carefully stood up. He found he was wearing warm sweatpants and the
shirt was laying on the nearby chair. Now that he was up and moving, he realized he needed a trip to the bathroom so carrying the shirt, he made his way slowly to the door. Opening the bedroom door he stopped in surprise. Chris was barely two feet from him dressed in dark sweats and shuffling slowly down the hall.
"Meet you in the kitchen," Chris said as Vin paused and pulled the shirt over his head. "'k," Vin answered and crossed the hall to the spare bathroom.
Several minutes later, Vin carefully walked into the kitchen following the smell of fresh made coffee. A cup was sitting on the table with the sugar bowl beside it. He eased into a chair with a groan of pain.
"You shouldn't be up," Chris stated from his seat across from him.
"Something woke me. I thought I heard a scream." Vin answered as he glanced at Chris. His one eyebrow rose as he gazed at the blond.
Chris nodded his head. "Me too." He looked at the dark windows, watching the rivulets of rain sliding down. "I think it was Martin. He's out there somewhere."
"Yeah. I'm sure it was him too. We need to find him, the quicker the better."
"The guys are riding out as soon as it gets light," Chris replied, and they both glanced at the kitchen clock. 3:40AM it showed, they had at least three more hours before it would be light enough for the riders to leave.
"What are you two doing out of bed?" Nathan's voice asked from the doorway.
Both men flinched and looked up at the dark man who stood in the doorway. Nathan's arms were crossed over his chest with Danny peering around his shoulder with a grin on his face.
"Needed a drink," Vin held up his coffee cup a moment then continued to lace it with sugar as the two entered the room.
Nathan rolled his dark eyes and Danny's grin turned into a smile seeing the amount of sugar Vin was putting into his cup. He thought Vin was a lot like Martin, who also drank his coffee heavy with sugar.
Danny poured Nathan and himself a cup of coffee and sat down. Nathan's gaze went over the two pale looking men, taking in their wan faces.
"Now tell us the truth," Nathan said taking a drink of his coffee.
Chris and Vin exchanged a glance before Chris replied, "Think we heard Martin screaming. Woke us."
"Damn!" Danny exclaimed.
"Anything else?" Nathan's gaze went from one to the other.
"Cold feeling, then nothing." Vin answered.
"When will the guys be coming?" Chris asked, glancing at the clock.
"They'll be here no later than seven. You two will NOT be going anywhere though. So you might as well go back to bed," Nathan informed them.
Vin struggled to rise and Danny quickly moved to help him.
"Thanks." Vin appreciated the strong arm that slid around his waist, steadying him.
"Here's your pills Vin, take them. Chris, yours are next," Nathan handed Vin his medication and a cup of water watching him closely as he took the pills and drank down the water.
With a nod Vin headed out of the kitchen towards the stairs. For a moment he paused at the foot of the stairs, looking up and wondered how he got down them alone. With a sigh he started up. He felt Danny's steadying arm once more come around him and was thankful for the support. In his condition he wasn't sure he could maneuver the stairs to his room again.
Chris downed his pills and rose from the table. "I want to know when the others get here Nathan."
"I'll try to wake you when they all arrive," Nathan promised as he followed the blond out of the room.
A short time later Vin and Chris were asleep in their beds. Danny headed to his bed and Nathan settled on the couch in the living room with a quilt over him.
By 7:15 horses were saddled and five men were mounting. The rain once more stopped and the sun had began to rise in the east. The mountain tops were being touched with pink and yellow colors, the brightest they'd been in over a week. Another half hour or so and the land would be lit by the sun.
Chris stood on the deck when Buck rode up to him. Chris noticed the gun on his hip and nodded approval.
"Don't take any chances. Shoot first, get Martin out of there."
"We will Chris. I don't like leaving you and Vin here with just Nathan though in case she comes to the ranch."
"We can handle her if she shows up. We might be hurting but we can still handle our guns."
"We'll be on guard," Vin's raspy voice sounded from the open door behind Chris.
"Morning Vin. We'll find Martin. See you later." Buck waved his hand at the two and turned his horse away, nudging her into a canter to catch up with the others who had reached the woods.
Once the riders disappeared into the trees Chris and Vin went back inside. Nathan was in the kitchen preparing a light breakfast for them with a fresh pot of coffee perking on the counter.
The five men made good time towards where Chris and Vin had been found. As they got closer they heard the noise of a vehicle and quickly turned off the trail moving deeper into the woods. A couple of minutes later Buck motioned for them to stop. Dismounting they tied the horses and carefully walked closer to the clearing. In the silence of the woods they caught the sound of a voice. Easing through the trees and brush they moved closer. They spotted a dark green SUV parked at the edge of the small meadow. A large man was standing by the driver's door watching something in front of him.
Five pairs of eyes turned to what the guard was studying. They saw another huge man standing behind a figure hanging from a tree limb, a dark-haired woman stood in front of the hanging man. Her hands were all over the half naked figure as she talked and smiled boldly at him.
"Josiah, car guy, take out tires if need be. Don't want them leaving. Spread out a little. We don't want any of them to escape. Shoot if you have to," Buck whispered instructions to the others. Within moments the five vanished into the trees.
A hard slap to his face brought Martin awake. For a moment he wondered why someone slapped him. As he opened his eyes the pain from the beatings awoke with him and he groaned. He could barely feel his arms, his shoulders were on fire and his torso and ribs throbbed, his wrists felt as if they'd gone through a grinder. He couldn't control the shivering that shook him, he was so cold. He was thankful he didn't feel any rain coming down.
Slowly Martin raised his head and looked at the woman standing in front of him. "Leave me alone," he muttered to the woman as she stepped close to him.
"You're not looking so spry and spiffy right now, and I told you I'm in charge. I can do anything I want to you," Ella's hands began stroking over her prisoners' chest.
Shuddering, Martin tried to twist away from her hands. He hated her touching him, but at the same time relished the warmth of her hands. He shivered again.
"Leave me alone." He hissed.
Ella giggled as her hands dropped to his waistband and with a sure shove, pushed under it and grasped him tightly.
"Where is my love and Tanner?"
Gritting his teeth, Martin snarled, "I … don't … know!"
"You do and you're going to tell me. Now."
"Go to hell bitch."
Martin cried out as her hands squeezed him hard.
Blind with pain Martin lashed out with his right leg. His bare foot caught her on her hip and knocked her hands out of his pants. Between her scream of anger and his cry of pain, no one noticed the men who appeared around them with drawn guns.
"ATF, freeze!" Echoed around the clearing as the five men stepped out of the woods.
Ella Gains glanced at the men who erupted from the woods. She screamed at Alfred, standing close to Martin's back. "Kill him!"
Alfred pulled his knife and stepped forward. His hand flashed in a downward stroke at Martin's back. Gunshots rang out, and he fell to the ground. A bullet broke his arm. Another struck him in the temple.
Ella, her hands curled like claws, threw herself on Martin screaming.
"You did this! Where's my love?" She raked her hands down his chest. He struggled to twist away.
Before she could rake his chest again, Buck grabbed her, pinning her arms to her body. He jerked her off Martin.
Like a wildcat in his arms, she threw her head to smash Buck's chin. She whirled free and landed a knee in his groin. Buck dropped her, his hands going down as he stumbled away.
With a snarl, Ella spun away and threw herself at Alfred's body. In an athletic move, she grabbed the dead man's knife. She whirled toward Martin's back, and with a nasty grin raised the knife.
A gunshot rang out. Ella stopped, a look of surprised shock on her face. She looked down at her chest, at the widening spot of blood spreading a little left of the center of her chest. She dropped, dead before she hit the ground.
Ezra walked to where Ella Gains lay and kicked the knife away before bending over and touching her neck. Knowing there would be no pulse he still needed to be sure the shot killed her. Buck breathing harshly, stepped to Martin, his knife in hand. Josiah grabbed the knife from Buck's shaking hand. Danny held Martin. With two deft moves, Josiah sliced through the rope and Martin's arms dropped.
Both wrists released, Martin fell into Danny's arms. He gasped to the men, "Thank you." Danny held the chilled body while Martin tried to move his numb arms.
JD arrived with a warm coat and a blanket. Danny put the coat on Martin, then JD wrapped the blanket around his shoulders. JD realized Martin was barefooted and went looking for his shoes, or something he could wear.
Ezra followed Josiah to the SUV where the other kidnapper was just waking up and pushing himself into a sitting position. Ezra read Simon his Miranda rights while Josiah cuffed him. Simon stared at his cohorts lying unmoving on the ground.
"Your brother?" Ezra asked.
"Yes." Was the simple answer.
"Sorry, he should not have gone after Mr. Fitzgerald. You are arrested for kidnapping Federal
"I know that. Alfred wouldn't have killed him." Simon snarled.
"It appears he would." Ezra replied as he opened the back of the SUV and looked over the things laying there. He found a light tarp and pulling it out he walked back to the others. Danny and Buck had Martin sitting on a stump and were rubbing his arms to get circulation back into them.
"I believe, Mr. Wilmington, that you know how to get this vehicle back to the ranch post haste. We can either load the bodies in the back or leave them here for the sheriff to pick up when it's convenient for them. You can take Mr. Fitzgerald directly to Mr. Jackson or the hospital if need be. We can also bring the miscreant in on your horse."
"Leave them. I'll get Martin to the ranch, you boys get, whoever he is, out of here," Buick pointed to the man standing by the SUV with Josiah.
Danny stood up, "Is that tarp large enough to wrap them both in?" He nodded to the two dead people. "I'll ride in with Buck and Fitz. You could tie them on my horse and bring them out of here. Save having to lead the sheriff up here to get them."
"Good idea, Danny," Josiah said as he walked over to them, leaving the prisoner tied to the SUV's post between the front and back doors.
"I have rope in my saddlebag," JD added looking at the prisoner.
"Get it JD. You and Ezra bring the horses. Let's see if we can get this wrapped up." Buck ordered then looked at Martin. "Let's get you into that rig and get you warmed up. Do you think you can handle a rough ride?" He asked as JD and Ezra disappeared into the woods to get the horses.
Martin shivered as Danny and Buck, using handkerchiefs wrapped his torn wrists. Minutes later he looked up at Buck and answered him.
"Anything to get out of here. I don't think I have any broken bones. Mainly a lot of bruising and am cold and hungry." Martin told them as he shakily stood up.
Eyes turned towards the woods as thudding steps were heard. Ezra and JD rode from the trees leading rider-less horses. Ezra rode close to them and handed Martin a bottle of water. Martin quickly opened it and took a long drink. Finishing the water he looked at Ezra. "Thanks Ezra, I needed that."
"My pleasure Mr. Fitzgerald," Ezra said as he ground tied his horse and with Buck moved to the bodies.
"Let's get you to the car," Danny quickly placed an arm around Martin's waist when he staggered a moment.
Shivering, Martin nodded and let Danny help him to the SUV, his bare feet sinking into the ground with each step. Once he was seated in the front seat of the SUV, Danny covered him with the blanket, reached across him, turned on the vehicle and put the heater on high.
"Stay here while I help the others," Danny ordered squeezing Martin's shoulder for a moment
before stepping away and closing the door. He hurried over to help wrap the bodies and get them on the horse.
Simon, still tightly hooked to the door post on the driver's side of the SUV, bent down and looked at Martin who gazed back at him a moment before turning away. Martin watched as they wrapped Ella and Alfred into the tarps. JD had found another tarp in one of the saddlebags. Moments later, they had the man across the horses back, and lifted the woman's into place. With no wasted movements, the bodies were tied so they wouldn't fall off on the trip to the ranch.
As he watched, Martin wondered why they hadn't just loaded the bodies into the SUV and carry them that way to the house. He was curious but decided he didn't need to know. He'd had enough of the crazy woman and was happy not to have to be around her any longer.
Josiah and Buck came to the car and took Simon to the horse Danny had been riding. Simon protested but they made him mount then tied him to the saddle, his hands to the saddle horn and ankles to the stirrup.
"See you at the ranch Buck, we'll wait until you are out of here, in case you need a push." Josiah told Buck as he slid into the driver's seat and Danny took the back seat.
"Once out of here, I'll hit the Forest Service trail and should be at Chris's in under an hour. Just don't let that guy escape." Buck nodded to the big man sitting uncomfortably on the horse.
Josiah grinned, "He won't get away or be a problem. We should be at the ranch about the same time as you. Watch out for potholes."
Laughing, Buck put the car in gear and eased it around and followed the trail the vehicle had made into the meadow out. In a few minutes, they reached the gate that Ella and her men used. Buck pulled through it and parked. Hurrying he jumped out and ran back to close it. Making sure it was tightly closed, he went back to the SUV and drove down the muddy dirt road.
"Rest if you can Martin," Buck told the blue-eyed man next to him.
"How's Vin and Chris?"
"They're at the ranch. They'll be fine. Are you all right?"
"Think so. Cold, sore, no broken bones hopefully. But if you hadn't showed up when you did … She was crazy."
Buck maneuvered the car around a deep mud hole before he answered. "She was crazy for sure, some strange feeling that Chris wanted her."
Martin felt Danny's hand on his shoulder and smiled over his shoulder at his partner. "Don't have to worry about her now," Danny said.
"Yeah," Martin shuddered and pulled the blanket tighter around him, tucking his bare feet under the end of it. "She wanted Chris so bad, she was going to leave me there, and get Vin too. Then either kill us outright, or, something, in order to get through to Chris. She didn't say what her other plans were. Crazy woman."
"She told Chris she killed his family to get him to want her," Buck growled, his voice shaking with anger and hurt. "At least now Chris knows who did, he can now heal."
Martin looked at Buck seeing the pain in the man's face, he knew the deaths had affected him too. He placed his hand on Buck's shoulder, when the dark-haired man glanced at him he said, "You can heal too."
Buck kept his gaze on the muddy road as he blinked his eyes then nodded his head. It was finally over, the killer of Sarah, like a sister to him and Adam, his beloved Godchild, could rest in peace now. He and Chris could go on with their lives, they had answers as to who and why they were killed.
Seeing Ella Gains in person, he did remember seeing her several times over the years, usually when he and Chris were drinking somewhere. One time he remembered her trying to talk to Chris and he'd pushed her away as they were leaving. Buck remembered the look on her face as he passed her, it was shock and concern. He couldn't believe she could be concerned about anything back then. Buck shook his head and took a deep breath, it was over. The last years of the pain of knowing someone had killed his adopted family and no idea who. For a moment, he wished it had been him who shot her, but he was happy she was now dead.
"Thanks Martin," Buck said with a quick glance at Vin's twin.
A small Vin smile crossed Martin's face before his eyes slid closed and his head leaned against the headrest, the blanket clutched tightly in his hands.
Danny and Buck exchanged glances in the rearview mirror then grinned at each other.
Vin stood at the living room window his head cocked; coffee cup forgotten in his hand. Finally he walked slowly to the recliner and eased into it.
Chris shot a glance at him as Nathan filled their coffee cups.
"They're coming. She's dead. Martin's okay. Should be here in an hour," Vin stated.
"Good." Chris nodded.
For awhile the only sound in the room was the music coming from the radio. Nathan made another pot of coffee and made sure the brothers took their medicine before settling near a window. Almost an hour later Nathan thought he'd heard something and rose with a quick glance at the dozing brothers, then he looked outside. He didn't see anything in the front so went to the kitchen and looked out the windows there, and spotted riders near the barn. One horse carried a tarped burden on it another horse carried a stranger.
Stepping to the doorway opening into the main part of the house he looked at the brothers who were looking back at him.
"Riders are here. Looks like they brought bodies and a prisoner out," Nathan said as Chris got up and helped Vin to get out of his chair.
"I'll call the sheriff and coroner," Nathan added as he moved back into the kitchen to use the phone there. "Don't go outside, they can handle it. I don't see Buck and Danny, so keep an eye out for them," he told the brothers as they moved towards the door.
"Just going to the railing Nathan," Vin answered as they stepped out the door and to the deck railing.
Chris and Vin watched as their friends dismounted and the stranger was helped off the horse. The big man was quickly tied to a corral fence post. They could hear the man cursing but at a word from Josiah he shut up. Chris recognized him as one of the kidnappers.
The bodies were untied and placed on the ground before the horse was taken into the barn and unsaddled. Once the horses were cared for they were turned out into the pasture before the men headed to the house.
As they drank a cup of coffee Josiah and Ezra explained what happened in the meadow, and why there were two bodies. JD listened, ready to add to the conversation if the others forgot something. Before they finished their coffee there was a knock on the door, Nathan answered it to find Sheriff David Mills at the door. He was invited in and before he could drink the cup of coffee JD had given him, the coroner arrived and a deputy sheriff.
Sheriff Mills helped load the bodies into the coroner's vehicle and Simon was taken into custody by his deputy.
Once the vehicles with the bodies and Simon were gone Mills went back to the house and his warmed-up cup of coffee he listened to what happened. He recorded everything, asking questions of Chris and Vin after seeing the condition they were in. He shook his head over what Ella Gains had done.
Vin's head raised and he looked towards the back door. "Martin's here. Nathan …"
"I'm on my way Vin," the tall black man said as he hurried out the back door.
A couple of minutes later Nathan came through the door with Martin. Danny and Buck closely behind them.
Martin grinned at his brothers, "I'm fine, just cold and wet."
Mills shook his head, the young man, he realized was a Vin Tanner twin, though his accent was different, and he had a different last name. He watched as an unknown black haired, brown eyed man, in a jeans jacket hurried around the agents and out of the room.
Martin was introduced to Sheriff Mills. Before the sheriff could start his questioning, the black-haired stranger was back, carrying an armload of dry and warm clothes for Martin. He was introduced to Danny Taylor, as the Latino man sat the dry clothes on a chair, finding that he was an FBI MP agent, and Martin's partner.
Nathan let the blanket fall to the floor as he began to check Martin over. Mills saw the bruises and scratches on Fitzgerald and made note of them. Nathan worked on Martin, cleaning the blood off him and caring for the deeper scratches, making sure there was no infection.
"You're going to be stiff and sore Martin, but I didn't find any broken bones. I'm going to wrap your wrists; they are torn up but should heal all right. I don't think there'll be any scaring on either wrist." Nathan told him as he smoothed salve over the damage. Once he finished wrapping them, he let Martin pull on the warm long-sleeved shirt.
"Thanks Nathan ..." Before Martin could say anymore a hot cup of coffee and a bowl of thick
chicken soup were placed in front of him. Once he changed out of the wet pants he sat back down and began to eat.
Mills asked more questions of Martin then Buck and Danny once again taping everything. An hour later the sheriff completed his investigation and rose to leave.
"I'll have this all typed up and sent to you at your office for signatures. A copy will go to your bosses also. If you have anything else to add give me a call." With that Mills left.
The men talked a bit before Nathan hustled Martin off to bed, under protest, but he could see how tired the young man was. He planned to get Chris and Vin to bed as soon as Martin was settled in.
Before he left Martin paused and looked at his brothers. "Thanks for coming after me. She was totally crazy. I've never seen someone so obsessed. I'm glad you both are all right. Chris, I'm sorry this happened to you. What Gains did is unforgivable. I'm happy she's dead."
"I'm glad you're all right too, Martin. At least now I know the truth and I can live with it. It's good she's gone, as crazy as she was …" Chris shook his head.
Martin nodded and looked at Chris, "Someone like that had the way and means to disappear and come back at will. She would have never given up, she was so fixated with you Chris and crazy, someone would have died."
Chris rose, a smile crossed his lips as he placed his hands on his brothers' shoulders.
"We are rid of her; she'll never come after any of us again. And we finally know what happened to my family. Now we can go forward."
"Here, here Mr. Larabee. At the present time, all you require is to heal with your brothers beside you," Ezra commented.
"Come along you three," Nathan ordered.
"Go lay down all of you. We're here and always will be," Buck remarked.
"One for all, all for one." Quipped JD.
"Brothers forever," Josiah stated and clapped Danny on the back happily.
Danny smiled as the three moved slowly towards the stairs, heading for their bedrooms. He was happy to be part of this brotherhood. He grinned as Vin and Martin shot a glance over their shoulders at him and gave him a thumbs up signal. All was well.
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