Devil's Hand

by Cindy Brewer

ATF Alternate Universe


Buck glanced around the seedy hotel on Denver's south side and shook his head.

The room was small and badly decorated but it would suit Buck's purposes for now as a base.

He tossed his small duffel bag on the floor not caring where it landed. Wilmington sat down on the bed and opened the laptop computer and plugged it into the phone line.

Buck tapped into the Denver police department's computer. He rubbed a weary hand over his face as he waited for the computer to call up the homicide files.

Wilmington knew it was a long shot but the only thing he could think of was that this killer was from his past.

His past with Chris when they were partners in Denver's homicide unit.

The computer beeped signaling it was ready and Buck leaned forward and began scrolling through the files praying for a lead.

+ + + + + + +

"Like hell you will," Chris replied each word clipped with anger as he took a step toward Myers.

This was the absolute last thing Buck or any of them needed right now.

For his credit Stan Myers didn't flinch under Chris's ice cold angry gaze, "Your reputation precedes you, Mr. Larabee so I am not afraid of your scare tactics. You will cooperate with this investigation or Mr. Wilmington's career won't be the only one on the line."

With that statement the IA officer turned on his heel and disappeared into the break room.

"Don't agitate him, Chris," Nathan said gently breaking the silence, "He'll go away once he has what he wants."

Larabee shook his head wearily, "He's not staying, I don't care if the President gave him authority," he turned to face Ezra as he took a piece of paper out of his pocket, "Shred this."

Chris walked past Nathan and headed for the door. He paused at the door to the breakroom. The temptation to throw Myers out on his ear was almost overwhelming.

Chris shook his head and continued out the door. There were more important things to do he had to find Buck.

+ + + + + + +

JD felt sweat drip into his eyes as he struggled with the last board. His hands were severely scraped and the dozen splinters burned but he didn't care.

He was almost free....he just needed to pry this last board.

But of course the last board was being more stubborn than Chris. JD had part of it free but the last half of the board just wouldn't budge.

JD rocked back on his heels trying to get a better position. Sliding into a sitting position he planed his feet against the wall and grasped the board.

Closing his eyes JD yanked the board as hard as he could. His shoulders screamed from the exertion.

Just when he was about to give up and try again he heard a loud snapping sound.

The momentum of the board breaking free literally sent the young agent tumbling head over heels until he crash landed against the door.

Righting himself JD ignored the wave of dizziness and scrambled to his feet. In minutes he was laying on his stomach wiggling through the small hole.

It was a tight fit but after several long moments he did pull himself through.

JD blinked against the harsh sunlight as his eyes adjusted.

Once they did JD looked back at the building he had been held in and realized it was a warehouse.

The warehouse district was on the outskirts of the city which meant it was a very long walk back to the ATF office.

JD moved to the corner of the building and risked one backward glance to make sure no one had noticed his escape. Then he broke into a run.

+ + + + + + +

Nathan tried to get back to the paperwork multiplying on his desk but he couldn't concentrate.

The silence of the room was deafening. It reminded Nathan of the loss the Seven had suffered.

Not that he needed reminding. He thought of JD every time he walked into the room.

In frustration Nathan threw his pen down onto the desk. It bounced off the computer monitor and clattered to the floor.

"Problem?"Ezra asked as he glanced up from the desk across from Nathan's.

The young black man shook his head as he stood, "Can't concentrate. Think I'll take a walk."

"Can we be of assistance?"Ezra asked as Myers popped out of the break room and headed toward Buck's desk.

The IA officer ignored them as he set his briefcase down on Wilmington's desk. Then he looked across the desk to the apparently empty one.

Absently whistling an upbeat tune as he picked up his briefcase and walked around Buck's desk.

Nathan saw where he was headed and glanced warily at Ezra not sure of what Standish would do.

"Don't you gentlemen have work to do?"Myers asked as he sat down at JD's desk and started taking files out of his briefcase.

+ + + + + + +

Chris Larabee stopped his car at an intersection and impatiently waited for the light to turn green.

He was beginning to wish he'd put an APB out on Buck. It would've made this search a hell of a lot easier.

Chris had tried all of Buck's usual haunts. Hell he had even asked Inez if she had seen him even though the two can't stand to be in the same room with one another.

Which left Chris back at square one.

Chris had toyed with the idea of going back to Buck's apartment and getting his black book and calling the number's there.

But with his friend's fondness for the opposite sex he'd have better luck looking through the Denver phone book.

He didn't have time for ethier right now.

An angry car horn jerked Chris's attention to the road in front of him. Chris glanced sheepishly at the driver behind him before maneuvering his car through the intersection.

The cell phone was on its third ring before Chris really noticed it. He snatched the receiver, "Larabee?"

"Hey cowboy," Vin Tanner replied quietly, "Where are you?"

"Out lookin' for Buck," Chris said wearily, "He didn't tell you of any new places he'd ventured did he?"

"No," Vin replied as he caught the underlying tension in his friend's voice, "What's goin' on?"

"The IA sent one of their vultures down to investigate Buck," Chris said quietly as he made a left turn.

"They don't waste time do they?"Vin muttered darkly.

"No, that's what they're trained for," Chris replied, "Where did you disappear to?"

"I went for a drive but ended up at the warehouse so I decided to see if the lab techs had found out anything," Vin said shaking his head slightly to clear away the image of Buck's truck.

"And?"Larabee prompted.

"It was C4, Chris," Tanner replied, "There's nothing left of the truck but a few pieces of metal. We've still got nothing to go on."

Larabee shook his head, "No, the C4 is something it'll give us something to track with."

"Maybe," Vin replied, "I'll head back to the office and drop the forensics' report on your desk."

"Watch your back, cowboy," Chris said quietly as he ended the conversation.

+ + + + + + +

Josiah Sanchez left the small kitchen and handed Casey a purple mug of cappuccino.

The young woman absently took the mug from him looked at the steaming liquid for a moment before sitting it down on the coffee table.

Casey huddled further into the colorful afghan and leaned back against the sofa.

Josiah sighed inwardly as he sat down in the blue colored low backed chair next to the sofa. Since he had arrived at Casey's apartment over an hour ago the girl had barely spoken.

Her roommate had left for work with a worried glance back at her friend and Josiah understood the source of her concern.

Casey Wells was normally outgoing, spunky, intelligent girl. Now she was an empty shell of that person; withdrawn, silent, sullen.

Josiah could only hope that her current state was only due to the shock. The big man leaned forward resting his folded hands on his knees and waited.

He had learned from experience that people would talk when they were ready.

Half an hour later Casey spoke the first full sentence since Josiah's arrival.

"Josiah, do you believe there's a heaven?"Casey asked softly as her gaze drifted toward the window.

+ + + + + + +

Nathan took a step forward but it was already too late. Ezra was on the move stopping just inches from Buck's desk his green eyes glaring at the Internal affairs agent.

"Sir, I ask that you remove yourself from that chair," Standish said each word clipped with anger. While part of him knew that this man couldn't know of the tragedy that had occurred two days ago the sight of this stranger sitting in JD's place caused Ezra to see red.

Myers didn't even look up, "I'm quite busy here, Agent Standish if you don't mind....."

Ezra stormed around the corner of Buck's desk and grabbed Myers by the shirt collar and yanked him off his feet sending the chair spinning backwards.

"Ezra....," Nathan warned as he caught up with his friend.

Standish ignored him as he slammed Myers's against the door to Chris's office, "I asked you to vacate that chair."

Myers looked at him blankly, "If you get your hands off me, Agent Standish I might forget this incident in my report."

Nathan placed a hand on Standish's shoulder, "Ezra, he doesn't know. Let the man go."

Myers glanced from one man to the other and back again, "Will one of you explain what's going on or are you going to stand there and babble all day?"

"I'm sure you'll discover the reason when you finish your investigation into Mr. Wilmington," Ezra replied as he dropped Myers non too gently to the floor, "Until then I strongly suggest that you find another desk to do your paperwork."

Vin took that moment to enter the office immediately picking up on the tension in the room, "Is there a problem here?"

Ezra turned to face Tanner as he walked back toward his desk to grab his jacket, "No problem, Mr. Tanner. I was just explaining a few things to our new friend."

Vin glanced at Nathan who only shook his head as Ezra stalked out of the office.

+ + + + + + +

In frustration Buck shoved the laptop aside and placed a hand over his eyes as he leaned forward.

If he stared at that screen any longer he was going to be seeing double.

Buck sighed as he rested his elbows on his knees his eyes still closed. He hadn't been able to find a damn thing in the old homicide cases.

Not that he really expected too.

But he had hoped he would find an answer, a lead, anything that would keep the grief at bay.

Give him something to concentrate on.

Buck jerked as the computer beeped. The dark haired man reached for the machine trying not to get his hopes up. Before he had set the computer down he had keyed in one more search.

Now the computer was telling him it had completed the search.

Wilmington hit the correct keys and the computer called up the files he had requested.

Buck's frown deepened as the search looked to be another deadend.

Case file #302: convict deceased

Case file #303: convict incarcerated

Case file #304: convict deceased

Case file #305: convict released

Case file #306: convic.....

Buck's head snapped up as he quickly scrolled back a screen. Wilmington felt the color drain from his face as he read the information on the convict who had been released only a week before JD's death.

At least now he had a name.

+ + + + + + +

The sun was setting and Chris Larabee was no closer to finding Buck. He had been hoping against hope that Buck hadn't left town. But as the last rays of daylight waned that possibility was looking more and more likely.

With no other places to look Chris parked his car in front of Buck's apartment building and exited the vehicle.

As he waited for the elevator Chris hoped that Buck would've left some clues behind as to his whereabouts.

But being around Wilmington as long as he had Chris knew that was a long shot.

Right now it was the only shot he had without alerting the brass that Buck was gone.

As he stepped off of the elevator Chris noticed that the door to Wilmington's apartment was ajar. Quickly withdrawing his gun Chris cautiously pushed open the door.

The darkened apartment revealed little of the intruder except a dark silhouette near the kitchen.

Larabee cocked the hammer back, "ATF agent, touch the sky!"

The figure turned slightly but didn't acknowledge Chris's command.

Chris frowned as he slowly moved toward the kitchen. As he got closer his eyes adjusted to the dim light but his shocked mind refused to identify the figure before him.

"JD?"The blond agent asked hoarsely as he warily lowered his weapon half afraid his eyes were playing tricks on him.

The boy barely resembled the young agent that Chris had seen only a few days before.

His skin was extremely pale and drawn.

There were dark gray circles under his eyes.

His hands were shaky and covered with dried blood.

His hazel eyes were dull and unfocused.

JD turned to face his hero and opened his mouth as if to speak but no words came out. The young man took a step forward before darkness closed in.

Chris quickly covered the short distance and caught JD before he hit the ground.

Larabee felt for a pulse and was relieved when he found one, "JD, you got more lives than a cat," Chris muttered as he reached for his cellular phone.

+ + + + + + +

A red-haired man in his early forties glared at the empty warehouse.

"How could you possibly let him escape?!"The man demanded as he whirled to face his employee, "There was one, count it, one door for you to guard! Are you really that stupid?!"

The blond haired man in his late twenties visibly cowered in fear, "How was I to know the kid would go through the wall....."

The red haired man glared at him as he cocked the hammer on the gun, "Did I ask for an excuse? There is no excuse you could possibly give!"

The blond man turned to run but it was too late. He was killed instantly as a bullet slammed into the back of his head.

"it's so hard to find good help these days," the red-haired man muttered as he turned away from the body and left the warehouse.

Time to change his original plan.

+ + + + + + +

Nathan Jackson stood a few feet from the small bed and watched the IV feed much needed nourishment into JD's body.

He still couldn't believe they had the boy back.

Chris hadn't had any answers as to where JD had been all this time when Nathan had arrived at Wilmington's apartment.

But the questions had instantly fled Nathan's mind when he had seen how malnourished and dehydrated the young agent was.

"How is he?"Chris Larabee asked softly as he appeared in the doorway. Nathan had suggested taking JD to one of the team's safehouses but Chris knew JD needed care immediately. A safehouse would take time and paperwork to setup so Chris had taken the younger agent to his ranch.

Jackson sighed as he turned to face his commanding officer, "it's a miracle he's here at all, Chris. From what I can tell it appears that whoever the bastard was that had him didn't give him any food or water."

"Will he make it?"Chris asked tightly. He didn't want to have to tell Buck that they had found the kid but not in time.

Nathan glanced back at Dunne's still form, "You know I don't like to give odds, Chris."

"Yes or no, Nate," Larabee snapped fighting to control his anger and helplessness. They still had no idea who had set the bomb and had kidnapped the youngest of the Seven. He had given the search for Buck over to Vin hoping the younger man's tracking skills would speed the process.

Nathan met Chris's gaze, "I don't know, Chris. A human body can only go so long without food or water. But you know there's nobody more stubborn than JD. If we give him enough nutrients he has a chance."

Larabee nodded, "If you need anything you'll have it. Just do what you have to to keep him with us."

With a last look at JD, Chris turned and left the small bedroom to let the others know about Dunne's condition.

+ + + + + + +

Buck checked out of the hotel and sat for a moment in the car unsure of what to do next.

Logically Buck knew he should tell Chris what he had found out. That together the remaining six friends would pull together to bring a killer to justice who had taken one of their own.

But Wilmington just couldn't take it if this bastard got another one of the Seven.

Buck swallowed hard as an image of JD's smiling face unbiddingly sprang before his mind's eye.

It should've been him in the car......not the kid. JD had his whole life ahead of him.

Just like it should've been him who died three years ago and not Chris's family. He and Chris had been on a 'working vacation' down in Mexico keeping tabs on a suspect.

After the surveillance work had been completed Buck had talked his old friend into staying an extra day......

They had returned to Chris's home only to find it quarantined off by bright yellow crime scene tape.

Buck winced at the memory and snatched his cellular phone out of the glove compartment.

There had to be a way to draw this bastard out into the open without endangering anyone but himself.

+ + + + + + +

Vin found his commanding officer out on the front porch leaning against the railing. Tanner stood to Chris's right as he watched the horses in the corral.

"I put a call into Travis," Larabee said quietly breaking the silence.

"You tell him about Buck?"Vin asked.

Larabee shook his head, "No, I was able to keep that out. I just asked him to send my old homicide cases."

"Ezra didn't have any luck tracking down the C4?"Tanner asked as he turned to face his friend.

Chris shook his head, "He's still got a few sources to check but I just got this feelin' that it all goes back to the beginning. There were a few cases that we coordinated with the Feds that might not have got filed with the others."

Chris saw the look on his friend's face and nodded, "I know I'm stretching but we don't have anything else to go on. Hell, we can't even find Buck to tell him about the kid....."

Vin took a step back from the railing, "I don't think he's left town. I'll check a few places see if I can track him down."

"Thanks, Vin," Chris replied as the sharpshooter left the ranch.

+ + + + + + +

Josiah Sanchez quietly closed the door to the small bedroom and retreated to the living room.

Casey had finally fallen asleep after Nathan had sent over a sedative.

The big man settled into one of the living room chairs and picked up the newspaper. Nathan had also filled him in on the latest developments. He was very relieved that the boy was back amongst them but it was going to be hard keeping this from Casey.

The girl had lost her parents in a car accident when she was four. This whole incident with JD must be bringing that horrible moment back.

Josiah could only hope that in the end she would forgive all of them for keeping this information from her. After all they were only trying to keep both of them safe until they could figure out who was behind this.

+ + + + + + +

JD started to stir just as Chris stepped back into the room. Nathan was instantly at the younger agent's side keeping a watchful eye on JD's vital signs.

"JD?"Nathan asked, "JD, it's Nathan, can you hear me?"

There were several long minutes of silence as the kid struggled to orientate himself. Then Chris heard the sweetest sound he thought he'd never hear again.

"Buck?"Dunne asked in a weak hoarse voice his eyes still shut.

Larabee glanced at Nathan before kneeling next to the bed, "He'll be here soon, JD."

At Chris's voice the youth turned his head and finally opened his eyes, "Chris?"

Larabee smiled, "How do you feel, kid?"

JD tried to sit up and instantly regretted the motion as sharp pain shot through his rib cage, "Like I got hit by a train," he replied through clenched teeth.

Nathan shot his friend a warning glare, "Don't you even think of sitting up. You've got two cracked ribs and a bruised collar bone. Plus the fact that you haven't eaten in three days....."

JD slumped back against the pillow, "All right, Nate, I get the point," he replied weakly as he stared up at the ceiling. Something wasn't right here.

Chris said Buck would be here soon....but where was he coming from? Usually Buck was such a mother hen that he would get on everybody's nerves.

Then the memories came crashing back......

Being held captive.....

The kidnapping....being grabbed from behind.....

"There was an explosion," JD exclaimed as he sat bolt up right ignoring the promise he had made to Nathan a few minutes earlier.

Chris leaned forward, "You remember the explosion? You saw it?"

JD shook his head wincing at the pain that was brought with it. He had to keep his head clear. Had to tell Chris what was going on.

"No, "JD replied quietly, "Heard it. They had already pressed a cloth over my face dragging me away from the truck."

JD looked over at Chris fear in his hazel eyes, "Level with me, Chris, is Buck hurt? Was he hurt in the explosion?"

Larabee shook his head, "No, kid, Buck is fine."

"JD, "Nathan asked, "Do you know who did this?"

JD swallowed hard shoving the fear aside as he turned to face his commanding officer, "You gotta find Buck, Chris."

Chris nodded, "Vin's lookin' for him now."

That seemed to ease a little of JD"s fear, "The man who grabbed me. Took me awhile to place him but when I did.....Chris, it's Jonathan Zellar."

Nathan froze at the name and Chris's face paled, "JD, that's not possible. Zellar's dead."

JD shook his head as he started to sit up again gaining a sharp glare from Nathan, "It was the first case I was on when I joined your team, Chris. I know what Zellar looks like. It was him....he practically bragged about it."

"Damn," Larabee swore as he rose to his feet and walked to the doorway. If JD was right and Jonathan Zellar was among the living then this nightmare of a situation had just gone straight to hell.

+ + + + + + +

Buck Wilmington pulled his car into the parking lot of a small diner.

He had put phase one of his plan into action now he just had to wait.

But he wasn't good at waiting, never had been.

Buck sighed as he threw the car into park and leaned wearily back in the seat.

If he wanted justice for JD he had to make this plan work.

And that meant Buck settled back in the seat and folded his arms across his chest.

A few more hours and this whole nightmare would be over.

But things would never be back to normal.

+ + + + + + +

While elated that JD was back among the living, Ezra had decided to return to the office.

He wanted to check on a few sources that he hadn't been able to earlier.

As he sat down at his desk Ezra noted that Myers was nowhere in sight.

Which was fine by Ezra....he would need the peace and quiet to complete the task.

Fifteen minutes later Ezra had completed two phone calls and was awaiting a return on the third when a knock at the door drew his attention.

"Good afternoon, Mrs. Travis," Ezra commented as he rose from his desk, "What brings you to this neck of the woods?"

The blonde widow glanced around the unusually empty office her blue gaze finally coming to a rest on JD's desk, "I came to see Chris but I see I should've called first. Do you know where he is?"

Ezra knew Larabee would want the newspaper editor out of harm's way, "Mr. Larabee is in meetings all day, I'm afraid."

Mary nodded and started to wonder why she had come here in the first place. She sighed inwardly....she had hoped she could do something, anything to ease the suffering of a group of men who had become her friends.

They were a family who had been torn apart by violence. She knew what that feeling was like.

Mary blinked shoving aside the painful memories of the past and looked at Ezra, "Will you tell him I was here....and if any of you ever need to talk....."

Standish smiled as he walked toward her, "Thank you, Mrs. Travis for your kindness. And I will tell Mr. Larabee that you stopped by."

Mary nodded as she turned to leave, "Do you mind if I grab something to drink?"

Ezra shook his head, "No, of course not, help yourself."

"Thank you," Mary replied as she turned and walked into the office's small break room.

Once she opened the refrigerator the widow noted how bare it was. Glad she had found something to do to help the team Mary closed the door and went to the cabinet closest to the door.

As she opened the cabinet she didn't see the thin black wire until it was too late

Mary bit back a scream as she realized she had armed the bomb.

Keeping her hand as steady as possible on the door Mary followed the wire until she saw the timer.

"Oh God," the reporter whispered as she read the numbers.

Ten minutes.

"Ezra!" Mary called struggling to keep the fear out of her voice.


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