by Raquel

An ATF "Virtual Season" episode

A little warehouse somewhere in Denver

He could hear voices whispering, but couldn't make out any words. Straining to hear, he made out three unfamiliar voices - all male. He wondered where in hell he was; everything was a blur. The last thing he remembered was dropping Vin off at his apartment in Purgatorio. He had supposed he had arrived at the ranch, gone to sleep and woke up with a terrible, terrible headache. But that wasn't it, because it wasn't only his head that hurt but the left side of his face and forehead.

He did a quick mental check all over his body, discovering several things: He was lying on a cot, his arms tied at his back , -no they were cuffed to his back; probably with his own cuffs. Trying to find a more comfortable position, he found that he was able to push himself to a reclined position, finding support from a wall next to the cot. He tried to regulate his breathing, his ribs protesting each movement. After a moment, he tried to shift again, another gasp tearing through him as pain wracked his lower left leg, he opened his eyes wide and would have let out a cry of pain, but he couldn't.

His blurred vision allowed him to see more or less where he was. It was some kind of warehouse -not too big- filled with boxes, some furniture that he could see, two cars, and his adored, but now destroyed, black Dodge.

Chris closed his eyes while trying to recollect the events of the last few hours. However, it was tough. His head hurt terribly, though not as badly as his face. He moistened his lips grimacing at the taste of blood; then he tried to slowly open his mouth, tears flooding his eyes as a sharp, intense pain ripped through his jaw. He realized immediately that his jaw was broken and dismissed any other try to move it. Breathing deeply, he thought of his predicament while waiting for the pain to subside to a dull throb. Escape seemed impossible as he felt dizzy to stand and besides, he wasn't sure how badly his left leg was injured. Hell, he couldn't even call out for help.

The whispering voices kept on, so he imagined that nobody had realized he was conscious, although he was sure some groans and hisses had left his mouth more than once. He hurt so much all over. He tried to take his mind off the pain by concentrating on the three voices.

"I told you," said one of the voices. " We can't keep him here. Somebody's gonna find out he's here." Chris noted the edge of desperation in the voice.

"Okay, Jim. Enlighten me with your Sherlock Holmes kind of mind," another voice full of sarcasm added.

"He's a federal agent that goes to work everyday. He will have partners who will come looking for him..."

Those words made Chris smile as much as he could. Of course his friends would find him. The problem was when. He could tell by the light that shown through some of the windows, that it was still daylight, but he had no idea of the time. Vin was probably tearing the world apart already. Or maybe, he thought, a chuckle rising to his throat, looking for his harmonica. Chris realized he didn't know anymore, where Vin's precious object was.

A laugh startled and brought him out of his reverie.

"That would be the case if they knew where he was. Dean did a good damn job cleaning the glasses and car pieces, didn't you Dean?" he asked the last question through clenched teeth.

"Yeah, Greg. Let me go, you're hurting me," another voice pleaded.

Chris imagined that Greg was the leader, and for his tone, a cold smart son-of-a-bitch.

"The accident scene was isolated, Jim. I don't think anybody saw or heard us. Now we have to keep calm and sharp. It'll take the feds awhile to find a trace and when they do, we'll have already gotten rid of our problem. Then if, by any chance, we do become suspects there won't be any proof."

"What if my father decides to come here? He can come whenever he wants," Jim said.

"Jim, wake up. Take his keys for a day or two!" Dean said.

"Okay, so explain the whole plan again, Greg."

"What kind of idiots am I talking to here?! I should have known you needed a sketch! Let's see: Dean and I will go to find the perfect spot near the river to sink the car with him inside.... Is that too complicated? We need a bridge or path near the shore of the river that looks a little dangerous. We put him inside the car, fill him with whiskey and tow it with another vehicle. We place him in that spot and then, our problem will be history. We just need a day or two. You both can handle that, can't you?"

Chris wondered how in hell he'd gotten into this mess as the voiced quieted. He knew he had to get out of there before they followed through with their fool-hardy plan.

"We are together in this, don't make me take more 'desperate measures'," Greg warned them after the tensed silence.

So they were going to get rid of him, that was obvious. The whole thing was great . He was going at home and ended up there in a warehouse, God knew where. He was hurting and cold all over, and wondering what was going to happen to him and what was up with Vin and the boys.

Damn my luck!

He tried to turn himself in a more comfortable position because his arms were growing numb; however, he only succeeded in making himself more uncomfortable and in more pain as his entire body protested his movements. A groan slipped past his lips.

The voices stopped. Damn it, now they know I'm awake.

"He's awake, Greg!"

"Keep cool, Jim! I don't think he can't move from where he is. Don't go near him you hear me! We'll have this solved pretty quickly!"

"Dean, stay with him, we'll go to look for the perfect spot," Greg ordered. "You don't have to worry about him, just ignore his presence."

Two forms passed by in front of him, but he couldn't make out their features as both wore baseball caps pulled down over their brows. However, judging by the clothes, he guessed them to be JD's age or younger.

Damnit, Larabee! You let yourself get captured by three kids. Gotta get out of here soon.

+ + + + + + +

Team 7 had gotten several teams in different law enforcement agencies and departments looking for or trying to find Chris or any clue about his whereabouts. All of them had orders to report anything they considered important or relevant that could help Team 7 to find their disappeared leader.

However, it was a Team 7's case. They had control over the whole thing. Chris was their leader, their friend, and it was their family who had gotten lost and they needed to be there when he was found. The Judge had gotten all the permits and free hand for the Team to do what they thought best and they made good use of it.

Besides, Vin wasn't going to allow anybody to take charge of the case; it was his and the Team's responsibility. To find Chris safe and sound was his business.

The sharpshooter left the office after he finished his conversation with the Judge and distributed tasks to his friends and partners. He drove to Chris's ranch in case all that they were stabilizing wasn't necessary and Chris was there. He just knew Chris wasn't at home, his gut and all his feelings told him that and his gut feeling never failed. If Chris were at home, even hurt, he would have dragged himself to the phone or would have used his cell phone. The fact that Chris's cell phone was off was something that disturbed Vin and made him believe that Chris wasn't in the situation he was on his own.

Vin arrived at the ranch and found everything as they had left it Monday morning when they had left the ranch to go to the office. Chris's bed was untouched and the horses at the stable were unattended.

Vin lingered at the stable, taking his time in caring for the horses. He wanted to make sure they remained in good condition until he or Chris had time to treat them as they deserved. Vin was surprised when those beautiful animals showed a kind of worry when he went into their stalls, knowing their owner had left them without a warning or explanation. Vin smiled sadly, remembering how he and Chris always talked to the horses while tending to them and knew that the animals were accustomed to the habits of them both.

Finally, Vin drove back to the office to share the no-news with his friends. He waited until Josiah and Nathan assured him that Chris hadn't been admitted to any hospital, or his worst nightmare, that his body had been found somewhere then left again to begin his 'field job'.

The rest of the team continued working on possible clue, witnesses and ex convicts that might be resentful of Chris. Anyone who may hold a grudge and want the man dead or alive was suspect. It was entirely possible that given Team 7's track record that any of them may be potential targets of enraged criminals seeking revenge.

After an entire day of searching, Vin felt exhausted; his arm hurt and the rest of his body felt as though it had been beaten with a hammer, and his thoughts were blurry, jumbled mess. He smiled lightly thinking that maybe he should have taken Nathan up on his offer of medication and rest. However, until Chris was found safe and sound, worries of his own well being were pushed completely aside.

The rest of the day had consisted in driving back and forth from his apartment toward the way Chris's ranch, following all the ways and paths Chris could have chosen.

Vin was very, very careful in his search - looking for anything out of the ordinary. If there were something to find, without any doubt, Vin would find it. The whole Team knew it and that was one of the reasons Vin was doing it, the other reason was that that Vin wasn't going to allow anybody to do it instead of him, no matter how much and how long Nathan complained about Vin's health. The Texan would take care of himself when he had found Chris.

It was 10 p.m. when he had realized that he hadn't taken lunch or called to the office to say he was okay. At that moment, exhaustion hit unmercifully. He pulled over to the side of the road and placed a call to the office. He was not surprised when there was no answer. He hung up and then tried Josiah's cell phone.

"Josiah, it's me."

"I'm glad you called, Vin. Nathan had been worried sick about you; we all have been."

"I'm fine Josiah. Have you heard anything?"

"No, son. I'm sorry."

"I know, Josiah, I'm sorry too. I lost track of time. Tell Nathan I'm fine. I was just... I haven't found a damn thing. I don't even know if I'm looking where I should. Hell, Josiah, where is he?"

The anthropologist noticed the tiredness and desperation in the younger man's voice, and if it weren't because he felt the same way, he would have felt sympathy for him.

"Vin, you did what you could. Let's stop for today and get some rest. You aren't in any condition to push yourself so much."

"Okay, but tell me what you got, maybe it can be useful for my search tomorrow, I don't think I'll go to the office, I'll begin early in the morning."

"The police department hasn't found a thing, not even his truck. There's no evidence that a crime of revenge has been committed. We'll keep with all of this early in the morning, as well."

"Did you tell Buck and JD?"

"Yep. I should tell them we haven't found anything, though."

"Don't worry, Josiah. I'll drive by there and talk to them."

"Okay, Vin. Take care and rest. See you tomorrow."

"I'll do Josiah, you too. See you."

Vin finished the call and started the car. He drove to Buck and JD's more slowly than he used to, but the tiredness was too much.

JD answered Vin's knock. "Hey Vin, you okay?" he asked in concern. He didn't like the look on the Texan's face. "Has something happened to Chris?"

Vin shook his head. "I've been better kid, but yeah, I'm fine." He saw Buck lying on the couch channel surfing. On the coffee table lay JD's laptop with the ATF shield on the screen. "Hey Bucklin, how are you doing?" he said, pointing at the mustached man who lay covered with a blanket.

"I'm fine, Junior, but I'm getting tired of this hovering mother hen I'm living with. I think he's making me pay for all those times I have had to take care of him. Did you find him? Anything?" Buck sounded annoyed when he had talked about JD's ways to look after him, but at the end he showed the pure concern he felt for Chris's disappearance. It was important for him to hear what Vin knew, so he pushed the mute button on the remote while asking.

Vin stared at Buck sadly, not noticing that JD left the room. He could explain everything he and the others had done during the day in trying to find anything that would lead them to Chris, but he didn't have the strength to go into a lengthy discussion. He sighed heavily and nodded.

Buck saw it in Vin's face; the younger man looked awfully tired, but Buck doubted he felt in that way due to his recent injuries or for having spent the whole day tramping around the city looking for his friend. It was the not knowing anything about Chris that made Vin feel and look totally worn out. He needed to know where Chris was, or at least, something that showed him that Chris was okay. Thinking about it, Buck realized that Vin would even prefer that any of the hospitals had admitted a Chris Larabee, because that would mean, mainly, that Chris would be okay, or at least that he was alive.

Not knowing anything could mean Chris might be hurt or dying in some place and nobody could do a damn thing about it. Neither Vin nor Buck himself could assist him, and that made both men furious with helplessness.

"It's okay, Vin. I'm sure tomorrow we will find him," Buck said, trying to reassure the Texan and himself.

"How can you be so sure, Buck?" Vin stared at Buck's face with those intense blue eyes that made Buck's next words catch in his throat. "I've been driving, stopping, asking people, looking for some clue or indication that Chris was there or passed by there, but there wasn't anything. The police department hasn't found anything, neither has the other agencies, or the Judge's contacts; even Ezra's contacts were useless. It is like the Earth has swallowed him."

"I'm sure Vin," Buck managed to say. "Tomorrow I'll help you with the search. I'm tired of being locked up. It's that okay with you?"

"Yep. Thanks Buck. Well, I should go to get some rest, although I don't think I can." Vin said honestly.

"Have you eaten today, Vin? And be sincere." Buck asked menacingly while pointing his index finger at Vin.

Vin shook his head. "I didn't realize I was hungry. I was too busy looking for him," he said bowing his head and scratching the top with his good arm.

JD emerged from the kitchen. "Hey Vin, you can sleep in the spare bed in my room, after you eat something." The kid had been hearing the whole conversation but he didn't feel like he should take part until that moment.

"I don't want to disturb you... I better take the couch," Vin said. He didn't want to go to his apartment. If he went there, he would recall all the memories of almost two days before when he'd been inured in the bust with Team 4 and of Chris driving him to the hospital and back to his apartment. He had been the last one from the Team who had seen Chris before he disappeared.

"Suit yourself, but you'd be more comfortable in a bed," JD said while on his way back to the kitchen.

After eating a sandwich that JD prepared, Vin donned the sweatpants and T-shirt JD lent to him and grabbed a pillow and blanket then said good night to his friends. Before setting in, he took his medication, hoping that it would indeed stop the pain in his arm and help him with a few hours rest.

He tossed and turned for over an hour. Finally, weariness overcame him. Where are you cowboy? Damn it. I need to know, I need something that will guide me to where you are. was his last thought.

+ + + + + + +

The drowsiness had replaced any other sensations in his body except for the cold. Over the last few hours, the pain in his leg had increased unbearably until finally, thankfully, it grew numb. Chris chuckled, thinking it ironic that pain had ultimately became his body's own source of natural morphine.

Some time before, Chris didn't know exactly when and in fact he didn't care, he had tried to find a more comfortable position and of course, he couldn't. It had been then when he realized his leg was still bleeding. In that moment a lot of things dawned on him. He felt sure that his captors hadn't tied his legs because one might be broken and had a large irregular gash. He didn't know important the cut was, but it looked and felt deep. Concern grew with each passing moment. He had to get out of there or draw someone's attention for assistance.

Chris groaned loudly, drawing the attention of one of his captors. When the young man was closed enough, Chris kicked out with his good leg making connection with the boy's stomach.

Dean gasped harshly, the air rushing from his body. Sinking to the floor, he held his middle with both arms, while trying to catch his breath amidst a series of deep coughs. After a moment, he stood and glared at the injured man then stalked away.

Chris braced against the wall and swung his legs over the edge of the ruined cot. Breathing heavily, he almost managed to sit upright until he realized his leg wouldn't co-operate. After a minute or so, he tried to stand, but a wave of dizziness hit and he lost his balance. He slumped back against the wall, the backs of his knees brushing the edge of the cot. Hissing with pain, he fell over the cot, his feet brushing the floor. His alarm grew as he felt more of his blood gushing through the gash in his leg.

Tiredness, pain, and the loss of blood made Chris sink into a lethargic mood. Hazily, he realized that his only chance for escape had faded into think air, but at that moment, he didn't even feel like cursing his luck. He hurt too much too care. After a few minutes, he felt his legs being bound at the knee and a then his leg being wrapped just about the gash. Silently, he thanked his captor although he wasn't sure whether this gesture might mean he had some options to remain alive or whether he'd still end up at the bottom of the river.

I'm sorry Vin. I can't give you a damn clue about where I am - I would if I could. I'm sorry, cowboy. I'm getting too old for all of this. You know I'd never resign myself to a fate like that if I could fight it; I just can't do it. I'm too cold and I hurt too much. I need some rest.

Next time Chris was more or less coherent, the blonde boy's two partners were already back and he heard the three of them discussing how they would carry out their plan on the following night.

+ + + + + + +

"What?" Vin croaked in a dry voice, while looking up to see a frowning Buck peering down at him. He still felt exhausted, knowing he'd only had an hour or so of sleep.

"Morning to you too, Junior," Buck chuckled.

Vin realized Buck was pressing his arm protectively into his side.

"You okay Bucklin?" Vin said, pushing himself to a seated position. He hissed slightly when his still bruised upper body protested after a whole night of lying still.

"More or less like you." Buck said slapping him gently on the shoulder. "Come on, Vin, lets take something for breakfast before beginning our search for Chris."

"JD?" Vin asked, resting his elbows on his thighs and holding his head on his open palms. Just to reach that position had taken Vin more time than usual, a clear sign of his still fragile physical condition.

"Okay old man, I knew I forgot to tell you something. JD and the others have another bust again today with Team 4. The Judge hadn't been able to do a thing. It's an important case, in fact I heard the word 'vital' said by somebody. The rest of Teams will be busy. Bad luck, I know, Junior."

"Just the two of us, eh?" Vin said with his head raised so he could stare at Buck, a hint of sadness in his voice. He closed his eyes and hid them with his palms again. He knew he had dreamt he was looking for Chris and he could hear his friend's voice but he couldn't find it. Silently, he pleaded that the nightmare didn't come true and he could find Chris as soon as possible. It was more than a day already and Vin's mind was racing with the negative alternatives in which they could find Chris. He shook his head and looked back to Buck again. "Okay, let's go," he said, pushing himself upright, looking more like a seventy year old than a twenty something. Buck, he noted, didn't look well either.

Both men were ready to begin their task in less time than they really thought they would need, but the necessity to find Chris was stronger than any pain or any injury.

Each one stepped outside Buck's and established which way they were going to take to look for Chris. They would take another two of the remaining routes Chris could have taken to go back to his ranch.

Vin wasn't totally convinced that what they were doing was the best to find Chris, but something told him that something had happened to Chris on his way home that night. He just needed to find which way Chris took. The variables weren't infinite, but there were multiple options and the rational part of Vin's brain told him that he wasn't going to find him. His heart and his gut told him otherwise. Chris was just waiting to be found and probably needed his help. Vin tried very hard to stop any particle of his body from hinting at the possibility that Chris could be dead. He didn't accept it and he knew Buck either.

Buck was more passionate and less reflective in his actions than the sharpshooter.

Vin loved and needed too much his privacy to show what he felt or feared.

Just before beginning with their tasks, both men exchanged looks and both of them had to look away because what they found in the other man's eyes was the confirmation of something both felt very deep in their insides: fear.

"Call me if you find something, anything, Junior," Buck said, pulling up the collar of his leather jacket. The day had begun cold, gray and slightly windy.

"You too," Vin said, imitating the ladies' man, but using just his good hand.

"We'll find him, Vin." The mustached man cared too much about Chris, had been right there for him in Chris's darkest moments and had known him for so long that he couldn't imagine his life without the blonde man.

"I hope we do it soon, Buck." Vin, on the other hand, had discovered in Chris his other half, a part that he didn't know he lacked. They didn't need to say a word to feel the connection, the belonging, but now he couldn't feel it and in some way he felt lost, disoriented.

Vin drove his rented car to a part of the outskirts of the city that was practically empty. It was weird idea that Chris might have chosen that way to get to the ranch, but why not, it could be one of those things you aren't sure why you did it. It was possible that Chris wanted to avoid heavy traffic or maybe he'd been so tired that he imagined a change of landscape would help keep him awake and alert. Anyway, for whatever reason he had in mind, Vin needed a clue - any clue.

He stopped close to an intersection and stepped out of the car and began to examine the ground and surroundings.

There were some blocks of old houses, most of them in bad shape, torn down and abandoned. Suddenly a movement in one of the windows caught Vin's attention.

Vin made his way as quickly as he could to the house then knocked at the door.

"Please, I know you're in there. I need help. I'm a federal agent. Please, open the door," Vin said taking his wallet out of this pocket and showing his ATF agent badge.

He saw the curtains moving again.

"Please. This is really important. Have you seen anything strange going on around here? I'm looking for this man," Vin said, taking Chris's photo from his wallet. "He was in a black Dodge..."

Vin was going to keep on with his disconnected and improvised speech, when the door opened. If he had been asked if he thought somebody lived there he would have sworn nobody did, it was worse than Purgatorio. It was far from everywhere and from everybody. It surprised him even more when a tiny old woman, older than Miss Nettie, opened the door, slowly and carefully as if it would to unhook from its hinges, keeping the chain put in its place. Vin sighed a little amused, like that little chain was going to stop anybody if he really wanted to break in.

"You're too young to be a federal agent. If you're lying trying to rob me, you really are going to be disappointed son. I have nothing."

"I'm a federal agent, ma'am." Vin said again, showing his badge. He realized he had blushed a little. How that lady could think he was too young to be a federal agent, if she only knew! "I'm looking for a friend. He's a federal agent, too."

The lady looked carefully at the badge Vin was offering.

"Okay, Vincent Tanner, ATF agent. Come inside and we'll see if I can help you." She offered a brief smile before closing the door to unlock the chain then opened the door completely again for Vin to come into the house.

Vin felt a little embarrassed. That attentive lady lived in an old house that was falling to pieces. Besides, he didn't have time to begin a social meeting right at that moment; he needed to find Chris. But above all he was taught to keep his manners, so he followed the old lady inside her ruined home.

"Take a seat, boy. I ain't going to charge you for it."

Vin obeyed and sat down in an armchair. She imitated him by sitting in one next to the one Vin had chosen. He noticed that neither armchair matched.

"Tell me about your friend," she commanded with a smile and a wave of her hand.

"Chris disappeared more than a day ago, almost two, and we can't find him, it's like he had evaporated."

"Is he your partner at that ATF where you work?" She leaned her head to the side lightly while asking.

"Yeah, well, actually he's the leader of the Team I belong to, ma'am."

"Don't call me ma'am. My name is Daisy, Daisy Flynn. Everybody has called me Daisy all my life. I think it's fair I tell you my name, since I know yours. I don't receive a lot of visitors, but I still have good manners." She smiled kindly at the young man who stared at her.

"Nice to meet you, Daisy." Vin offered his right hand to the young old lady who stretched hers at the same time. Vin gently grabbed it and placed a kiss at the back of it.

"Oh, young man, are you a gentleman?"

"I reckon I ain't." Vin knew immediately that the lady was alone in this world and that her only company was her memories. Although he needed to get back to searching for Chris, he knew that this lady needed some of his time. And maybe, just maybe, she may have seen something.

"So, he's your boss. I imagine he might be a very good boss since you're so anxious to find him. I remember Mr. Nichols. I used to work for him. I was a secretary in his office in the forties...." She stared at her open palms raised in front of her. "I typed really fast with these fingers. Anyway, that man was harsh brushing the despotism. There wasn't a day we didn't work overtime. But he was fair sometimes. That man must be nice; afterall, it's obvious you're hurt, but you're desperate to find him."

Vin smiled her. "Well, Daisy..." he said, choosing his words. He hated and felt uncomfortable talking about himself or his feelings about things, and even less, about his friends, or Chris. He sighed. "He's my best friend too." He couldn't believe he had said just the simple truth to an old lady he had just met.

"I see. Are you sure he's just that?" Daisy inquired, raising her almost imperceptive silver brows.

How can she know? Vin shook his head. "Nope. His my family."

"I bet he is. Oh God. I forgot to offer you something to drink or eat. Do you want tea or orange cookies? You don't look like you've had a lot for breakfast."

"No, thank you, Daisy. I did take breakfast." Vin bowed his head to look at his hands that were hanging between his legs, the elbows resting on his thighs.

"Your friend's Dodge was hit by a Cherokee... How I know the name of the car? Because it has a big label painted on the cover of the spare tire. Three boys not much younger than you got out of it and began to discuss things. I couldn't hear them because they kept their voices on a level that I couldn't understand. One was blonde, another redheaded, and the last one brunette. This one was smoking all the time. Later they tried to open the driver's side without success, so they moved their car and placed it in front of the Dodge, towed it and went away. No cars passed by there the whole time, and I'm the only one living here."

Finally, something! Vin could have grabbed and hugged her, but he needed a little more. "I need to know something else... what way they drove off, or the plate. The plate would be the best, Daisy."

For Vin, an eternity passed in the time it took Daisy to smile mischievously at him.

"God blessed me with two things: A good head and good sight. Yes, Vin Tanner, I saw the plate. It said "Jimbo", I remember because I though it was "Dumbo" at first, you know the Disney movie... I went with my Timmy to see it when it was at the theaters."

"Perfect, Daisy. Just perfect. Just let me make a call." Vin graced her with one of his trademark lopsided grins.

"Of course my dear. But I don't have one."

Vin's gaze grew concerned as he thought of the old woman living in such retched conditions. Suddenly, a thought occurred to him. He walked toward her and gently grabbed her arms with his good hand and the fingers of his casted arm.

"Daisy, tell me they didn't see you!" He couldn't help the urgency in his voice.

"They didn't see me, my dear. I saw them through a gap of my curtains and I had the lights off."

"Great." Vin couldn't help but to hug the lady briefly, his relief at her safety apparent. "Now I'll make that call." He took his cell phone out from his leather jacket pocket.

Daisy nodded at him and raised her eyebrows when she saw the little gadget Vin took of his pocket.

"Buck, it's me. I have a lead. Yep. I can't believe it either. I got a witness. Go to the office or at your home and look for a license plate: "Jimbo". Call me when you have a name. I'll take care of it. I need you near a computer since JD and the rest of the Team is busy. Don't worry I'll be fine. Yeah, I promise."

Vin switched the phone off and found Daisy staring curious at him. He grinned.

"You have to go, Vin Tanner." It was a statement more than a question.

"No yet, Daisy, I want to stay for a little while until my friend Buck calls me back, if that's okay with you..."

"It'll give me time to show you some photographs."

"Okay Daisy, show me those photos." Vin said, following the lady through a papered corridor.

+ + + + + + +

The only thing he could be more or less sure of was that it should be day again as by judging the light coming through the windows.

His vision was blurred, his throat and lips dry, he was cold, too damn cold, and he was still hurting all over.

Chris imagined the three boys were together again, because he could hear voices, but wasn't very sure if they were different or if it was just his mind playing tricks on him. It had been that way the whole night, or a whole day with his night. He couldn't say it for sure. He was losing his senses. His mind was filled with images of Sarah, Adam, Vin, Buck and the rest of the Team, and he couldn't cry out for them in his delirium.

He could feel his body stiffen. His shoulders were beyond pain as were his arms. His throat and lips had been dry for so long that they felt like sandpaper. At first, each one of those things had been little pains and discomforts to join the ones in his head, face, ribs and leg, now he couldn't really notice anything other than cold. His mind told him to focus on something else. He tried to make out what the voices were saying...

"Wait just until tonight! Tonight it will be over!

You said you'd find a place soon and it's been more than a day. If we are going to get rid of him, why don't we do it right now? Why are we keeping him here?" one of the voices said.

"Jim, why do you keep coming back to that? We left everything perfectly clear already. That's the way we planned and that's the way it is gonna go."

"Do we give him some water?" the third voice asked.

"He can't open his mouth. Haven't you noticed that he hasn't spoken?"

"If he's gonna die anyway, then I agree with Jimmy. Why don't we do it now? At least, we won't have to keep watching him suffer and shivering."

At that moment Chris realized he was, in fact, shivering lightly but doing it anyway.

"Well, Dean, or can we say Sister Teresa? You can cover him with the blanket from Jim's trunk."

A moment later, Chris noticed a warm sensation that was lasting, making the shivers disappear.

"Greg, I ain't sure I want to be involved in a murder." Chris recognized that that voice belonged to the boy that had covered him.

Chris heard a strong noise like a blow or slam against something hard.

"Look Dean. If they don't discover it there will be no problem. Besides, we are in this together so if you don't want to keep with the original plan, and prefer to become an annoyance, I don't have any problem in getting rid of you. Consider yourself warned."

Chris knew definitely that the one who talked last was the 'boss'. The only thing that came to Chris's mind was that that boy was a real 'son-of-a-bitch'.

"Okay, I know you are both feeling a lot of tension. Boys, go home. Both of you take a bath, get something to eat and let an apparent normal life relax you a little. I'll take care of our friend. Come back later this evening."

Chris didn't hear anymore, so he supposed the two boys had obeyed the leader. The warmth brought back by the blanket turned his body in a nest of aches. The pain had awoken again and all his body hurt in such a way that he didn't think he had felt anything other than pain all his life. His last hours had been varied between excruciating pain or freezing cold. Both extremes were too disgusting for his taste, but the pain made him more alert of the situation he was force to bear.

Above all he thought about the Team and Vin. He and Vin knew each other so well that he could picture the young man going through the entire city trying to find him and he had made him promise he would do light job while his arm was healing. Chris would have chuckled if he didn't know it was going to hurt. He imagined that Buck was helping Vin all the while recovering from the graze to his side. Those two were sure something.

Then Chris realized that it wouldn't matter if the pain went away now, if he was just going to die anyway. However, death wasn't an option he chose to accept as a fair shake. Sure, it would stop the physical and mental pain, but just the thought of what his death would do to Vin and the others hurt far worse than any injury. That thought alone made him want to fight.

The reality was that he couldn't move, he couldn't cry out for help and he didn't have any idea where he was, and worse, he was stuck with the company of a bastard who didn't have a problem killing a Fed. He had to rely on his friends, his family, on Vin. He knew he could trust them, but at what price. Vin wasn't reasonable when it came to the team's wellbeing, well in fact none of them were, but Vin pushed to the extreme. Chris just hoped that Vin arrived soon as he felt his strength wearing out.


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