Devil's Hand

by Cindy Brewer

ATF Alternate Universe


Mary Travis was running late.

With her assistant editor on vacation that meant half her staff at the Clarion was already standing outside the door waiting to be let in.

Mary sighed as she glanced at the kitchen clock, "Billy! Please hurry! I can see your bus pulling around the corner."

Six-year-old Billy Travis scurried out of his bedroom his blue jacket half on, "Mom, I can't find my other sock."

Mary quickly set a glass of orange juice on the table, "Wear another pair."

The blond boy shook his head, "The rest are dirty."

Mary glanced out the window and saw the bus was almost to the driveway, "Drink your juice, Billy. I'll look for the other sock."

The newspaper editor ran to her son's room and quickly found the wayward sock under the far corner of the bed. She grabbed it and headed back to the living room when the phone rang.

Not now, Mary thought as she glanced at her watch and then at the bus.

She snatched the cordless phone on the fourth ring,"Hello?"

"Mary, it's Alex. Have you seen the news?"

The blonde woman instantly recognized the voice of her photographer as she saw Billy heading out the door, "No, just a moment please Alex."

She covered the bottom half of the receiver as she started after her son,"William David Travis! You are not going out in this rain with only one sock!"

The boy paused half way up the sidewalk appearing not to have heard her, "Bye Mom!" he replied with a wave as he turned and quickly boarded the bus.

Mary sighed as she glanced down at the sock in her hand. It was only then that she remembered the phone call.

"I'm sorry, Alex. I'm running late, I'll be there as soon as I can."

"Don't worry about it," Alex Peters replied, "I let everybody in. Did you hear me before? Have you seen the news?"

Mary shook her head as she leaned against the kitchen counter, "No, I haven't had a chance yet, why?"

Alex sighed, "I know you've become friends with that bunch of ATF agents. There was a story on the news, Mary. An ATF agent was killed yesterday in a car bomb."

Mary felt her face pale as her hand fumbled for the edge of the counter, "Was it one of the Seven?"

Alex shook his head, "The news didn't mention any names but I called a few friends of mine on the force. I hate to tell you this Mary but it was."

Mary closed her eyes praying that the agent killed hadn't been Chris Larabee. She knew it was selfish to think that, but Billy had started to think of him as a father figure. And after all her son had been through in the last year and a half she didn't want to take that away from him.

"Who?" Mary asked hoarsely.

"The kid," Alex replied sadly, "JD Dunne."

+ + + + + + +

It was nearly eight thirty by the time Buck stirred.

Nathan quickly moved toward his friend, "Easy Buck, don't try to move too much."

Chris moved to stand next to Jackson, "Buck?"

Wilmington's eyes slowly opened, "Chris?"


"I thought I told you to leave me the hell alone," Buck replied as he ignored Nathan's instructions and rolled onto his side so he was facing the window.

"You told me,but I'm not goin' anywhere," Larabee replied as he moved to the small coffee table and picked up a pitcher of water and began to pour a glass.

Buck sat up with a start as a thought struck him. There was something he had to do to do right by JD and he couldn't do that from this cabin. Ignoring the pain that spiraled up his rib cage Wilmington swung his legs over the side of the sofa.

"Just where do you think you're goin'?" Nathan demanded as he quickly moved to intercept his friend.

Buck ignored him as he struggled to his feet trying to ignore the wave of dizziness that washed over him.

Chris sat down the glass and moved to stand next to Nathan. Larabee placed a restraining hand on Buck's shoulder and forced him back down onto the sofa, "You're not strong enough to be going anywhere."

"Have to," Wilmington replied quietly his dark gaze fixated on the door.

Larabee knelt next to his friend, "Whatever it is I can take care of it."

Buck shook his head, "No, have to do right by JD. Have to take care of this."

"Take care of what, Buck?" Chris asked softly.

"Casey," Wilmington replied his voice dropping to a whisper, "Have to tell her about JD before she hears it from a stranger. Kid's death was my fault...have to at least tell her why."

+ + + + + + +

Josiah Sanchez entered the ATF office just in time to see Vin's computer monitor go flying off the desk.

The big man quickly moved forward his fingers grasping the machine within inches of the floor.

"Thanks Josiah," Vin said sheepishly as he helped his friend reposition the monitor.

"I take it you did not receive the information you needed from it?" Sanchez asked with a grim smile.

Vin snapped to his feet and began pacing the small area behind his desk, "We have nothing, Josiah! Not a damn thing! It was still light out but there are no witnesses. We're not workin' on any open cases. The ones that are cold the perps are ethier dead or in jail."

"Did you look at Buck's personal file before he joined the ATF?" Josiah asked.

Tanner nodded as he sank wearily back into his chair," Chris was doin' that when I got here this morning. There was nothing there."

"Have you seen Mr. Wilmington yet this morning?" Ezra asked.

Josiah sighed as he leaned against the corner of Vin's desk, "I went by the hospital first thing and he had already skipped out."

Vin's head snapped up, "He's gone?"

Sanchez saw his friend rise to his feet and held up his hand, "Relax,brother. Chris and Nathan tracked him down to the cabin, they're with him now."

Tanner nodded and retook his seat.

Ezra cleared his throat, "Has anyone taken care of the......arrangements?"

"Buck's in no shape to deal with that," Vin replied as he reached for the phone, "I'll do it."

Ezra shook his head, "We all need some sleep. I'll take care of this why don't you and Josiah get some rest? Its going to be a very long week."

Vin started to protest but then his mind started to register the exhaustion that was seeping into his bones, "All right,I'll grab a few hours. Let me know if you need any help."

"Of course," Ezra replied sadly as he set about the difficult task ahead.

+ + + + + + +

Chris picked up the cabin's cordless phone and held it away from him at arm's length. For some reason he couldn't bring himself to dial Casey's number.

He didn't know why it was bothering him....he had informed family members of loved ones death's before.

But then again it never got easier even if it was part of being in command.

Nathan saw Chris standing next to the fireplace staring at the phone and approached him,"Want me to call her?"

Larabee shook his head, "I'll do it," he replied quietly as he sat down on the edge of the mantel.

Chris glanced at Buck's sleeping form a few feet away. The only way he had convinced him to get some rest was by promising he would get Casey here so Buck could tell her.

But Chris had decided to tell the girl prevent Buck from reliving JD's death all over again.

Chris headed for the door handing the phone to Nathan, "Keep an eye on him,Nate. I'll tell Casey in person, she deserves that much."

Nathan nodded as he watched Chris leave. This wasn't the first time any of them had lost a friend in the line of duty.

Jackson turned back to look at Buck wondering how the hands of fate could be so cruel to a group of men who had done so much good.

+ + + + + + +

Metal gently clanging together woke Buck.

For a moment his exhausted mind couldn't identify the sound.

Then it clicked.


Buck's eyes shot open.

Car keys.

Wilmington turned toward the door in time to see Nathan pick up his keys from the floor and place them back in his coat pocket.

Buck closed his eyes as he felt a lump of tears begin to form in his throat.

He winced as his mind pulled out the memory of him tossing the car keys to JD.

He had signed the kid's death warrant.

What the hell had he been thinkin'?

I'm sorry should've been me....was meant for me....not you.

+ + + + + + +

Chris had stopped at Casey's apartment only to be told by her roommate that Casey was working the graveyard shift at the veterinary clinic where she was completing her residency.

Chris sighed as he glanced at his watch....her shift should just be about to end.

As if on cue Casey stepped out of the front entrance of the clinic and walked toward the parking lot.

Chris stepped out of the car and met the young woman half way between the building and her car.

The rain had stopped but the sky was still overcast leaving the air humid and muggy which created an eerie atmosphere.

Casey Wells was fumbling for her car keys when she spotted the familiar blond dark clothed agent walking toward her.

Her heart leapt into her throat as she saw the grim expression on his face.

She had a bad feeling all night that something had happened....

She had tried to call JD but had never gotten an answer at either his apartment or his cell phone.

"What's happened?" Casey asked anxiously foregoing all preambles of a greeting.

Larabee sighed inwardly as he gently placed a hand on her shoulder, "Casey, I don't know how else to say this, but to just say it," he paused as he saw fear creep into her brown eyes. "Someone planted a bomb in Buck's truck yesterday...."

"JD?" Casey asked in a whisper her stunned mind refusing to grasp what the agent was trying to tell her.

"I'm sorry Casey."

Casey broke away from him and stepped back nearly tripping over the curb in the process, "No!"

"I know it's not much comfort, Casey," Chris replied quietly as he stepped toward her, "but he died instantly....he didn't feel any pain."

The tears flowed freely then as Casey crumpled to her knees, "JD..," she said in a tortured whisper.

Chris knelt down just in time to catch Casey as she fainted.

+ + + + + + +

JD slowly got to his feet and started to pace.

Not that the small room yielded much area for pacing but JD had to do something.

No one had returned since JD's captor had awakened him several hours before.

Not even to bring him food or water.

Which had struck JD as odd. If they had kidnapped him to keep him prisoner why not feed him?

If they wanted to kill him there were easier ways than starvation.

JD shuddered at that thought then shoved his fear aside.

He had to concentrate....think of a plan.

The man's voice had been familiar JD just had to figure out from where.

Then like a bolt of lightning the answer became terrifying clear.

"Oh God," JD whispered as he looked around the dark room.

He knew who the man was....and what he meant to the Seven.

JD couldn't wait for backup that's exactly what his captor wanted. He had to escape and warn the matter what it took.

+ + + + + + +

JD's memorial service at eleven o'clock the following morning was a small and somber affair.

No matter what Chris said or did he couldn't get Buck to attend the service.

The kid hadn't had any family outside of the Seven. Which was another reason why he wanted Buck to be there.

Chris sighed as he entered the small church. He hadn't attended Sarah and Adam's funeral.

He just couldn't bring himself to do it. He had been overwhelmed with guilt and grief.

That was one regret he'd added to the stack of others he'd had to live with for the rest of his life.

He had hoped to prevent Buck from living with that regret.

Chris saw Mary standing by the first row of pews and approached her. "Thanks for coming,Mary."

The widow nodded as she pulled her friend into a comforting embrace, "I"m so sorry about JD," she whispered as she rested her head on his shoulder.

Chris held her for a moment before pulling back, "Is Buck here?" he asked even though he knew it was a long shot that Buck would change his mind.

Mary shook her head sadly, "No,I haven't seen him yet. He's not coming is he?"

"I tried,Mary,I did," Chris replied as he leaned against one of the pews,"I don't want him to regret not saying goodbye."

Mary placed a hand on his shoulder, "People grieve different ways,Chris."

Chris nodded,"I know. I just don't want him to be alone."

"He knows you all are here. He'll talk when he's ready."

Josiah approached Chris from the front of the church,"We're ready to begin,Chris."

+ + + + + + +

Buck Wilmington stopped at the intersection in front of the church where the others were gathered for JD's memorial service.

Buck glanced at the rental car's clock radio he still had time to go in if he wanted to.

He knew that's what Chris wanted.

It's what JD would have wanted.

Hell it was what a part of him wanted to do.

Buck sighed as he shook his head and maneuvered the car through the intersection.

He just couldn't face everyone. Couldn't look them in the eye when he was the reason they were gathered there.

Buck paused at the next stoplight and made a left turn. He had to do one more thing before starting his investigation into JD's death.

Facing everyone at the church was unbearable but what he had to do next was probably the most painful thing Buck had ever done.

He had to go home.

+ + + + + + +

Five quiet ATF agents filed into their office three hours later. It had been a long day for everyone and it wasn't even half over yet.

Vin picked up a small cardboard box from the break room and moved to JD's desk. Carefully he began picking things up and packing them away.

A tiny diecast F-14.....

Three dog-eared comic books.....

Small framed picture of his mother.....

A Colorado Rockies's baseball hat.

"It'll keep,Vin," Chris ordered quietly as he stood in the doorway of his office.

Tanner shook his head, "Has to be done sometime, might as well be now."

"I said leave it be!" Chris shouted before turning on his heel and slamming the door behind.

Vin winced as the wall vibrated but continued with his task. He figured it would be better for everyone if the reminders were cleared away.

Josiah came up behind the young agent and gently placed a hand on his shoulder pulling him away from the desk, "He's right,Vin. We all need time to reflect."

Tanner looked from his friend to the baseball hat in his hand to the box and back again. Finally he threw the hat down in the box and stalked out of the room.

+ + + + + + +

Chris left the lights off in his office as he leaned back against the door closing his eyes.

He felt guilty about yelling at Vin.

Chris turned to head out of the office to apologize to Vin only to see him storm out of the room.

Larabee sighed and shifted his gaze to his desk. He frowned seeing the single folded sheet of paper laying in the center.

Pushing away from the door Chris moved forward and snatched the paper from the desk.

From the small shaft of sunlight Larabee read the short typed letter.

It was Buck's resignation.

+ + + + + + +

The room he was in had no windows.

The door was heavy way out that way.

But JD had discovered that the rear wall was an outside wall. And after a few hours of searching he had found that a few of the bottom wooden planks were rotted.

JD knelt down and began to pry the planks away ignoring the splinters that cut into his hands.

He could only pray that he was in time.

+ + + + + + +

Vin Tanner blinked in surprise as his jeep came to a stop. With a sigh he ran a weary hand through his long hair as he found himself at the warehouse where they were keeping what was left of Buck's truck.

How the hell did I end up here?

Tanner shook his head as he opened the door and exited the vehicle. Well he didn't want to go home and didn't want to go back to the office.

Vin headed toward the door of the warehouse might as well see if the lab techs have discovered anything yet.

+ + + + + + +

Buck angrily swiped at the yellow crime scene tape that blocked the doorway of his apartment. He thrust the key in the lock and turned the key but no matter what he couldn't force himself to turn the door knob and go in.

Come on Wilmington, Buck chided himself as he swallowed hard and closed his eyes, You can do this. Its not like the kid's ghost is going to be sitting on the couch.

But as he stepped through the door Buck realized JD's ghost was there.

Memories assaulted Wilmington from every angle.

Too many and yet too few.....

JD should've had many more years of memories.....

Of his marriage.....of his children....of his grandchildren.

Wilmington stepped into the living room and squeezed his eyes shut struggling to pull himself together.

This was not the time to loose it.

Buck sighed as he opened his eyes and walked over the broken glass heading toward his room.

He knew that if he let himself give into the grief he'd never surface.

Buck couldn't let that happen....not now. With each passing minute the trail of JD's killer grew colder.

Wilmington closed the door behind him as he scanned the small room for the items he needed.

There would be plenty of time for grief later once he nailed the murdering coward to the wall.

+ + + + + + +

Chris had taken two steps toward the door when his phone rang. Larabee cursed silently as he whirled to face the offending machine.

Chris was sorely tempted to let it ring but then reason set in. It could be a lead on JD's killer.

The phone was on its fourth ring before Chris snatched the receiver, "Larabee?"

"Chris? Its Ben Krieg, just wanted to let you know somebody broke into Wilmington's apartment."

It took Chris a moment to place the name then he remembered that Josiah had placed a couple agents to watch the crime scene.

"Was the lock forced?" Chris asked.

"No, but with all the sophisticated lock picks out there these days crooks don't need to break a lock," Krieg replied.

"Anything taken?" Larabee asked as he leaned against the desk.

Krieg shook his head, "No, at least not that we can tell. Want me to get a team over to give the place a once over?"

Chris sighed inwardly he had a pretty good idea who had been there, "No, just keep an eye on who comes and goes. Thanks for letting me know."

"Anytime," Krieg replied,"We'll catch this guy,Chris."

"We better," Chris replied bitterly as he hung up the phone.

+ + + + + + +

Vin Tanner did a double take at the lab tech not quite believing what the woman was telling him, "C4?"

Sarah Cummings nodded grimly as she brushed a stray red hair away from her face,"I'm afraid so, that's why the truck is as disintegrated as it is."

Vin turned to look at what was left of Buck's vehicle sitting in the center of the warehouse. It barely resembled a truck. The metal skeleton was all that was steering wheel, no seats, no wiring just metal.

Vin winced inwardly . He could only pray that JD had been unconscious.

Tanner turned to face the lab tech, "I thought C4 was only used by terrorists."

Cummings shook her head sadly, "Not any more. Nowadays anyone with the right contacts and the right amount of money can get a hold of some."

Vin nodded his gaze once again turning to the burnt out vehicle, "Can you print out the data you have so far? My boss will want a copy of it."

Cummings nodded, "Of course, I was just about to fax it to him when you arrived."

"Thanks," Vin replied softly.

The woman followed his gaze to the vehicle, "I just wish I had more clues for you."

"We've solved cases with less to go on," Vin replied quietly.

The woman nodded before walking over to the computer to print out the information.

I promise you, JD, Vin vowed silently, I will find out who did this no matter how long it takes. Nobody takes away one of the Seven.

+ + + + + + +

"Where's Josiah?" Nathan asked as he glanced up from his computer.

Ezra didn't look up from his pile of paperwork that had accumulated over the last two days, "I believe he went to see how Ms. Wells is doing."

Nathan sighed, "I wish Buck would've attended JD's memorial. Casey needed his support as much as he needed hers."

"I need to speak with Agent Larabee," an unfamiliar voice announced from the doorway.

Ezra instantly disliked the thirty-ish brown-haired man sporting a light gray suit, "Mr. Larabee is in the middle of a important phone call. I'm Agent Standish can I be of service?"

The man barely glanced at Ezra as he moved past them heading toward Chris's office, "No,thank you."

Ezra exchanged a questioning glance with Nathan before quickly moving to catch up with the stranger, "If you have something to discuss with Mr. Larabee I will be happy to take a message and he will get back to you at the earliest convenience."

Chris took that moment to open the door having heard the raised voices, "What's going on?"

"This gentlemen was just about to inform us of that," Ezra replied as Nathan joined the trio.

The man ignored him as he took out a police badge from his inside jacket pocket, "My name is Agent Stan Myers I'm with internal affairs."

Chris's eyes instantly narrowed into slits, "State your business in two sentences or less and then get out."

Myers smiled, "I'm afraid that won't be possible, Agent Larabee. I have been given full authority to investigate Agent Wilmington so I will be under foot for quite some time."


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