Devil's Hand

by Cindy Brewer

ATF Alternate Universe


"JD, can you toss me the can of crushed tomatoes?" Buck Wilmington asked his voice muffled as the dark haired man lifted the lid on the steaming pot.

"Its not here," JD Dunne replied as the youth began opening and closing cabinet doors in the small kitchen.

Buck replaced the lid on the pot and turned to face his room mate, "Did you put it in the cart?"

"I thought you did," JD replied absently running a hand through his short dark hair.

Buck glared at the younger man, "No,I told you to. Now how am I supposed to finish my world famous spaghetti casserole surprise?"

It's Denver's ball at the Bear's twenty yard line. With two minutes left in regular play the question is will Elway throw the ball or run it?

Buck waved his hand in front of the kid's eyes jerking JD's attention away from the big screen tv in the living room,"Earth to JD....."

"Huh?"JD asked his mind still on the football game.

Buck snatched his truck keys off the nail by the refrigerator,"The tomatoes,JD,I need you to run down to the store and get them. Chris and the others will be here any minute."

There's the snap. Elway pulls back scans the.....


The youth glared at his friend as he snatched the keys away from Wilmington,"Fine,I just hope this thing is worth missing the best playoff game of the year."

+ + + + + + +

JD raced outside hoping to catch the play on the radio. As he thrust the key in the truck's lock he never saw the group of three men approaching him from the right.

The young ATF agent barely had the driver's door open before hands grabbed him by the shoulders. JD struggled against his attackers but it was no use.

Seconds later a white cloth drenched in chloroform was pressed over JD's mouth and nose.

+ + + + + + +

Buck had just put the garlic bread in the oven when the all too familiar sound of an explosion reached his ears.

Dread crept up his spine as he raced toward the window hoping his instincts were wrong.

Wilmington however never had a chance to look outside as the fire from the explosion reached his truck's gas tank.

The shockwave from the explosion rocked the apartment building. Buck was thrown backwards as the window broke,sending shards of glass everywhere.

+ + + + + + +

When Chris Larabee and the rest of his team of ATF agents arrived at their friend's apartment Chris felt like he had been rudely tossed back into his past.

A past he had just finally found a way to live with.

Chris stepped out of the car and felt a restraining hand on his left shoulder. He turned to face the concerned blue eyes of Vin Tanner.

"Easy,pard," the long brown haired sharpshooter said softly,"We don't know anything yet. They might not even have been home."

Larabee barely spared his friend a glance as he strode through the barricade of police cars ,ambulances ,and firetrucks. The blonde agent ignored the elevator and took the stairs two at a time.

Once they arrived at Wilmington and Dunne's apartment they found the door wide open.

Forcing aside the fear Chris stepped through the doorway to find two paramedics struggling to get Buck to sit still.

Josiah,Nathan and Ezra left to see what they could learn from those outside and coordinate the investigation.

Each of them hoping what they feared was not a reality.

That they hadn't lost one of their own tonight.

As Chris moved toward his old friend Vin spotted a pair of forensic officers by the window and went to speak with them.

Buck seemed to notice Chris then and he stopped struggling. His face was very pale and he had a large cut over his left eye.

But his eyes were what scared Chris the most....there was no life in them.

They were dull and barely focused.

Larabee gently knelt next to his friend placing a hand on Wilmington's right shoulder,"Buck, its Chris."

"He's in shock, Sir," one of the paramedics replied as he took a fresh bandage out of is kit,"I don't think you'll get any information out of him."

Chris ignored him as tried again,"Buck, what the hell happened?"


"Buck,"Chris asked as he struggled to keep his voice neutral,"Where's the kid?"

For a long moment Chris thought Buck hadn't heard him. Then as Larabee started to turn away he heard Wilmington reply in a barely audible voice;"He's with his mamma."

A young blonde paramedic turned to face Chris,"Sir,we have to take him to the hospital now," she said as she helped her partner shift Buck to the stretcher.

Larabee nodded as he stood,"I'll be right behind you."

As the paramedics left Tanner approached him,"How's he doin'?"

Chris sighed as he turned to look out the broken window,"I think his emotional scars are gonna be a lot worse than the physical ones. Did you find out anything?"

Vin nodded sadly,"The kid triggered the bomb when he opened the truck's door. He never had a chance, Chris."

"Damn," Larabee swore as he turned around,"I want everyone on this. I don't care what other cases we're workin' on, or what the brass says. I want every square inch investigated. I want to know everyone who even breathed near that truck in the last twenty four hours."

Tanner nodded,"We'll get the bastard who did this."

Chris started toward the door,"We better get him before Buck wakes up. I wouldn't want to be in the son-of-a-bitch's shoes when Buck gets a hold of him."

+ + + + + + +

Vin Tanner glanced at the somber group gathered in the ER waiting room. Everyone looked exhausted, and it was no wonder. They had finally wrapped up a case in northern California culminating six months worth of work.

Now to loose JD on top of that......

Vin sighed as he leaned against the right wall next to Josiah. He knew they had been too lucky for too long. Vin could only hope they didn't loose the group because of this.

They needed each other now more than ever.

+ + + + + + +

Buck Wilmington struggled to open his eyes. Even through the pain he wondered how much he had to drink the night before.

A bad hangover had to be the only explanation for the pain that sliced through his temple like a razor.

If he didn't have a hangover that meant something bad had gone wrong with a mission.

Which meant something terrible had happened to one of the Seven.

And that was a thought that Wilmington couldn't bear.

With a renewed bought of strength Buck was able to open his eyes. At first he thought something was wrong with his eyes because everything was dark.

It took him a moment to realize the lights were off.

As Wilmington's eyes adjusted to the dark he took in his surroundings. He was in a hospital room the drapes were drawn.

The door was closed halfway allowing a small shaft of light into the room.

Buck turned his head and saw a human form slumped in a chair,"Chris," Wilmington called hoarsely. Try as he might his voice only came to a whisper.

Somehow Larabee heard him anyway. The blond agent jerked awake instantly reaching toward his friend.

"Hey, pard," Chris said quietly,"How ya feelin'?"

"Better than you look," Buck replied with a grim smile as he took in the dark circles under Chris's eyes.

Chris swallowed hard hating to be in this position. Hating the people who had put him there,"Buck, do you remember anything about what happened?"

Wilmington heard the quiet fear in his friend's voice and felt dread start to form in the pit of his stomach,"Not much," he replied shaking his head,"Just seein' glass goin' everywhere......"

Larabee stood and walked around the bed to turn the lights on stalling for time.

"Forget the damn lights, Chris," Buck demanded,"Tell me what happened? Where's JD? Is the kid okay?"

Larabee sighed inwardly and retook his seat. He didn't mince words knowing there was no easy way to say what he had to say.

"JD's dead, Buck," Chris replied softly,"He was killed in the carbomb outside your apartment."

"No," Buck protested softly as he shook his head. This all had to be a nightmare.....

"He was killed instantly,Buck," Chris said as he watched his friend closely.

"My truck?"Wilmington asked in a choked whisper.

Larabee nodded,"Yes."

"Meant for me then...," Buck replied as he closed his eyes and leaned his head back against the pillow.

Chris shook his head,"We don't know that for sure,Buck."

"Of course we do," Buck snapped,"The kid hasn't been with us long enough to make that kind of an enemy."


Wilmington turned his head away from his old friend,"Just leave me be,Chris. Leave me alone."

"I don't think that's a good idea...," Chris began.

Buck's eyes flew open as he swiped the contents of the nightstand to the floor with a loud clatter,"I don't give a damn what you or anybody thinks,Chris! I said I wanted to be alone....." his voice began to tremble forcing him to clear his throat and try again,"Please."

Larabee sighed as he rose to his feet and walked to the door,"If that's how you want it,Buck,but I'll be back in the morning."

+ + + + + + +

Chris Larabee finally gave up on sleep three hours before dawn. The nightmares that had plagued him after his family had died had returned.

He had never quite figured out why the dreams had stopped after he formed the ATF team.

Chris swung his legs over the side of the bed and rubbed his face wearily.

Maybe Sarah thought he had finally found some peace with his new 'family'.

Now another family had been destroyed.

Chris didn't bother to turn on the lights as he dressed. He picked up his brown leather jacket and headed for the office.

Hopefully he would find some answers there.

+ + + + + + +

JD was rudely forced back to consciousness by a sharp kick to his rib cage. With the air forced out of his lungs JD choked as he curled instinctively into a fetal position.

"Up and at'em,boy," a harsh male voice commanded as he yanked JD around so he was lying on his back,"Its a beautiful new day and we got a lot of stuff to do."

JD squinted trying to get his eyes to focus. He had finally caught his breath but making out the man's face in the dim light was another matter.

"Who?"The youth whispered in a strained voice.

His captor rocked back on his heels,"I'm hurt,JD,that you don't recognize me. I've been told I'm quite well known in your circles."

The man rose to his feet and headed toward the door,"I'll be back when you remember."

+ + + + + + +

Vin Tanner wasn't surprised to find the office door unlocked despite the early hour.

The sharpshooter paused in the doorway his gaze traveling to JD's empty desk.

Vin shook himself and moved past JD's desk to his own placing the thermos of coffee down.

Not bothering to knock Vin quietly opened the door to Chris's office. Larabee's chair was turned around so it was facing the window.

Several stacks of files covered the desk.

Tanner walked around the right side of the desk moving to stand next to Larabee who hadn't acknowledged his presence.

"Isn't it a little early,even for you?"Chris asked quietly finally breaking the silence his blue gaze never leaving the dark sky.

"I think we both had the same idea," Tanner replied as he glanced at the stack of files,"Find the answer you were lookin' for?"

Chris shook his head wearily as he whirled the chair around,"No."

"Maybe the answer just isn't here,Chris," Vin suggested.

Larabee glared at his friend,"No,it has to be here somewhere. I'm just not looking in the right place."

+ + + + + + +

Ezra Standish was not a morning person.

Never had been.

Never will be.

So why was he standing in the early morning darkness outside Wilmington's apartment building?

Because the memory of a friend wouldn't let him sleep.

A friend who despite everything had been kind to him when other's weren't.

Ezra sighed as he walked around the crime scene. What was left of Wilmington's truck had long since been towed to a secure warehouse.

The scorched earth had to reveal some clue that the forensics team and homicide unit had missed.

It just had too......

+ + + + + + +

Josiah Sanchez knocked lightly on the hospital room door as he slowly pushed it open.

He had debated about coming to see Buck this early but he figured the shock of last night's events had worn off by now.

The big man shook his head sadly. He could only pray that Buck didn't shut his friends out.

Josiah stepped into the room only to find the bed empty. He quickly stepped out into the hallway and caught a doctor's attention.

"Is Mr. Wilmington having tests done?"Josiah asked.

The red haired man shook his head,"No,none were scheduled,why?"

"And you didn't release him?"Sanchez asked hoping his instincts were wrong.

The doctor frowned,"No,of course not. He had a severe concussion plus several broken ribs...."

Josiah nodded in acknowledgment as he slammed open the nearby stairwell door and took the stairs two at a time.

Chris wasn't going to like this.

+ + + + + + +

Nathan Jackson sighed wearily as he tossed down a thin manila file folder. The young black man leaned back against the bed's headboard and rubbed his tired eyes.

Sleep had not been a visitor that night so Nathan had called the crime scene unit and had them fax over the photos of the explosion.

There hadn't been any new clues in the pictures. Jackson figured that the only clues they would get would be from the vehicle itself. And they couldn't touch that until it cooled down.

Nathan glanced out the window and saw the sun starting to color the sky. He wondered if it was too early to go check on Buck.

Jackson shook his head sadly he hoped that Buck would let them help him through this ordeal.

+ + + + + + +

Buck Wilmington paused as a sharp pain ricocheted through his rib cage making it difficult to breath. He leaned heavily against the small cabin's doorframe.

Once the pain subsided enough to move Buck walked into the cabin and sat heavily down in a chair near the fireplace.

Wilmington knew this was the first place Chris would look for him and that was fine. He wasn't trying to hide from anyone. If he was he wouldn't have come to this place.

This place that had become a sanctuary for the team. A place to come and have it was skiing,hunting,or just a poker game.

Buck leaned his head back against the headrest. He couldn't believe he had made such a rookie mistake.

It was drilled into you the first day of the matter if you're on duty or off duty you never,ever let your guard down.

He had done that and it had cost him his family.

JD wasn't related to him by blood but he might as well have been.

The youth had replaced part of his soul that had died the night Chris's family had.

Once again because of Buck's foolishness a life was taken far too soon.

Buck leaned forward burying his head in his hands.

"I'm sorry JD...," Wilmington whispered just before the tears started to flow.

+ + + + + + +

A cold steady rain had started to fall as Chris Larabee pulled his car into the hospital parking lot. He found a place and parked,getting out of the car without bothering to grab the umbrella from the back seat.

Instead the blond agent flipped the collar of his black trench coat up and headed toward the main entrance.

With each step Chris tried to shake off the feeling of deja vu. Buck had been the only one to get through to him when his family had been killed. Now it was Chris's turn......he just wished he knew what to do.

As he got closer to the door Chris spotted Josiah barreling out. Larabee frowned seeing the grim expression on the big man's face.

"Josiah!"Chris called breaking into a jog.

Sanchez stopped and turned in Larabee's direction and walked toward him,"Was just on my way to see you."

"Just a guess," Chris replied with a grim smile,"Buck's gone AWOL?"

Sanchez nodded,"We need to find him,Chris. The doctors did their best last night but some of his ribs weren't healed yet. One of them could puncture a lung if he's not careful."

"Damn," Larabee swore softly as he ran a hand through his short hair,"Knew this would happen. Should've put a guard on his door."

"Wouldn't have stopped him,brother," Josiah replied quietly as he watched the rain hit the ground.

"I know," Larabee replied grimly as he turned and started back toward his car,"I have an idea where he's gone. Find Nathan tell him to meet me at the cabin."

Josiah nodded,"Want me to come along?"

Chris shook his head,"I think Nate and I can handle him. Vin's back at the office I think he could use a hand with back cases."

+ + + + + + +

Vin Tanner sat down at his desk and booted up the computer. He took a sip of coffee as he waited for the programs to load.

He forced his gaze away from the empty desk a few feet from him. If he looked it would only bring back memories.

Memories which would distract him from the task at hand.

The computer beeped telling him that it had finally completed its task. Vin quickly logged onto the internet and clicked into the maze of websites that connected police departments around the world.

Vin knew it was a long shot,but he hoped there was a prisoner release that they hadn't been notified of yet.

Tanner glanced up as Ezra entered the room,"Have you been home at all, Ezra?"Vin asked knowing that a late night was the only excuse for Standish to see a sunrise.

Standish nodded as he walked toward the break room,"I was there briefly, Mr. Tanner."

Vin returned his attention to the screen as the particular website he wanted finally loaded,"Couldn't sleep ethier,huh?"

Ezra returned to the main room carrying a piece of toast and a mug of hot tea. About all he had the appetite for,"Precisely. How is Mr. Wilmington this morning?"

Vin shook his head,"Don't know. Chris just left to go see him."

Ezra took a sip of tea as he walked around the desk and peered over Vin's shoulder,"Anything new?"

"Not yet," Vin replied sadly,"But something better break soon before Buck gets back."

+ + + + + + +

Without knocking Chris walked into the cabin with Nathan close at his heels. Chris stopped three steps into the room seeing Buck sprawled on the floor near the fireplace.

Chris raced to his friend's side sliding onto his knees. He could only pray that Buck was unconscious from exhaustion and not medical reasons.

"Buck?"Larabee prompted as he gently turned his friend over onto his back,"Buck? Its Chris,can you hear me?"

Nathan quickly moved over and felt Wilmington's pulse,"Pulse is strong."

Chris nodded,"Should we move him?"

"Should be okay. We can't do any more damage than he's done to himself already," Jackson replied as he stood.

Larabee gently picked up Wilmington and carried him over to the sofa.

Chris placed an afghan over his sleeping friend before turning to look out the window above the sofa.

"Chris," Nathan said softly as he came to stand next to his commanding officer,"Found this near the fire place. I think it was what Buck was reachin' for."

Larabee gently took the well worn comic book from Nathan's hands. He had lost count how many times he had taken one of these away from the kid on a stakeout.

"I never should have picked the kid," Chris said quietly never looking up from the comic book,"He was too green,too young."

"We all were once,Chris," Nathan replied,"He learned a lot from us,Chris. He was a fine agent and that was a credit to you and Buck."

+ + + + + + +

Rain hitting the roof woke JD.

He glanced around the dark room in confusion for a moment before the memories of the day before came flooding back.

Being dragged from the truck......

Cloth pressed over his face.....

JD slowly raised himself into a sitting position. His sore ribs protested every step of the way. Once he reached the wall he leaned back and wrapped his arms across his chest.

His captor's voice was familiar....JD just couldn't place it.

He just had this nagging feeling that if he didn't figure out who the man was a lot of bad things were going to happen.


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