Devil's Hand

by Cindy Brewer

ATF Alternate Universe


As Vin maneuvered his jeep through mid-afternoon traffic he knew that Chris had already checked out all of Buck's usual haunts.

Which led Vin to put himself in Wilmington's shoes.

Buck had just lost part of his soul.....where would he go?

He would try to find answers which meant Buck would need a temporary base.

And without the ATF's budget for expenses Buck would need somewhere cheap.

Not waiting for the next intersection Tanner threw the jeep into a hard u-turn and headed for the south side of the city.

Vin just hoped that he could get to his friend in time before Buck did anything foolish.

+ + + + + + +

Chris stepped outside so he wouldn't disturb JD in the next room. He was trying to keep a reign on his temper but the clerk at the other end of the phone call was talking to him about bureaucratic red tape.

Chris had no time for the debate or the red tape, "I don't give a damn what you have to do. Just get a forensics team out there to dig up Zellar's body!"

Chris slammed the off button on the cordless phone and tossed the device into one of the wicker chairs. He knew that the forensics team would only tell him what he already knew but he had to be absolutely sure.

Zellar had nearly destroyed the team the last time before Chris and Buck had cornered the killer in a train yard.

Chris shook his head....if Buck knew that Zellar was alive and the one behind JD's 'death' this mess would turn ugly very fast.

That was something Chris had to prevent no matter what the cost.

+ + + + + + +

Standish entered the break room and read the rapidly counting numbers on the timer.

Ezra cursed silently at the lack of time but was careful to hide any reaction from the reporter.

Standish took a step away from Mary and yanked his cellular phone out of his pocket. He dialed the dispatcher and told her to give the code to clear the building.

The dispatcher informed him that the bomb squad was on its way but Ezra knew they would never get there in time.

"Ezra, "Mary stated as she gestured toward the cabinet, "I think this is the same type of bomb that was set off in the truck."

Ezra was about to ask how she knew what type of bomb destroyed the truck but decided against it. He stood next to her to get a better look at the device.

It was about the size of a camera. A thin black trigger wire ran from the door to the two three inch size bundles of plastic explosive attached behind the timer.

"I believe your deduction is accurate, Mrs. Travis," Ezra replied

as he examined the wires that ran from the plastic explosive to the

timer. There were four all, yellow, pink and green.

The only problem was he couldn't tell if there were any traps.

If the bomb was placed by the same person who had planted the car bomb Ezra could only assume the wires were trapped.

Which left only one other option.

Standish glanced at the widow, "Mrs. Travis, the trash compactor is roughly the same distance you are from the cabinet.

I'm going to tie my belt to the compactor and to the cabinet door so the device thinks a person is still holding it open. When I tell you to I want you to run as fast and far away from this office as you can? Understood?"

Mary nodded tightly. She was using all of her strength and will power to keep her arm from shaking.

Ezra glanced at the timer: three minutes, twenty seconds.

Ezra quickly removed his brown leather belt and wrapped one end to the handle of the trash compactor. The other he carefully tied to the cabinet knob.

"All right, Mrs. Travis you may let go," Ezra ordered his green eyes never leaving the red numbers of the bomb.

Mary hesitated only briefly before snatching her hand away from the cabinet.

The door vibrated slightly but remained open.

Ezra glanced back at the widow, "Go!"

Mary looked at him with wide blue eyes then back at the bomb.

"I'll be right behind you!"Ezra replied to her unanswered question, "Go! Now!"

Mary took a last glance at the numbers less than two minutes left. She turned and ran as fast as her feet would carry her.

+ + + + + + +

Vin Tanner made a left turn and entered a small parking lot. This was the last hotel on this street. And about the only one left on this side of town that Vin hadn't checked. If Buck hadn't been here then he had left town to follow a lead which didn't ease Vin's mind any.

With the presence of Vin's badge the hotel manager confirmed that Buck had been there for two days but had checked out about three hours ago.

Vin thanked the man and requested to see the room Buck had occupied.

It was a long shot but Wilmington might have left in a hurry. If he had Vin would be able to find his friend's trail and prevent Buck from doing something that would cost him his career.

+ + + + + + +

Nathan stepped out of JD's room to find Chris placing a log on the fire. It was nearly dusk and their was definitely a late fall chill in the air.

Chris glanced up at the foot steps, "How's he doin'?"

The healer sat down in one of the chairs opposite the fire place, "He's asleep. Best thing for him right now."

Chris nodded as he walked toward the window, "I just wish we could get word to Buck."

Then you believe that JD saw Zellar?" Nathan asked quietly.

Larabee nodded, "Yeah, I do. This whole thing is his M.O, he likes to play mind games."

"Could be a copycat," Nathan suggested part of him not wanting to believe that the madman was among the living.

Chris shook his head, "Wish it was. Forensics called back a few minutes ago. I had them dig up Zellar's grave....the casket was full of sand."

+ + + + + + +

Ezra was almost to the door of the break room when he risked a glance back at the bomb.

He was just in time to see the belt slip from the cabinet's knob and fall to the floor.

Standish ran like a bat out of hell through the bullpen and out into the corridor. He glanced around hoping that Mary had made it to the stairs by now.

His heart froze when he saw that she hadn't. She was only about five feet ahead of him.

With no time to shout a warning Ezra forced his legs to go faster. As he passed the reporter he grabbed her in a fireman's tackle and threw them both non too gently into the stairwell at the far end of the corridor. Just as he slammed the door shut behind them the bomb went off.

+ + + + + + +

With disinterested movements the manager unlocked the hotel room door and left without giving Vin a second glance.

Vin pushed the door open the rest of the way and stepped into the small room.

He winced slightly at the bright red walls and equally bright orange carpet.

Vin quickly came to the conclusion that Buck had cleared out. There wasn't anything in the room that didn't belong to the hotel. Vin threw down the trash can in was empty. Housekeeping must've already come through.

Knowing there was nothing more he could do here Vin fished his car keys out of his coat pocket and turned to leave.

As he turned he spotted something under the left front corner of the bed.

Vin quickly dropped to his knees and reached for the wad of paper.

Unfortunately the paper was wedged between the leg of the bed and the nightstand.

The tracker turned onto his side hoping for a better angle. The change of positions worked as his fingertips brushed the top of the paper. Vin batted the ball of paper toward him until he was able to get a grip on it and bring it out from under the bed.

This better not be a pizza menu, Vin thought darkly as he rose to his feet.

As he unfolded the paper Tanner quickly read the contents before pocketing it.

Vin quickly left the room not looking forward to telling Chris what Buck had discovered.

+ + + + + + +

Ezra awoke slowly as he tested each limb for injury. Nothing broken but he definitely had one or two bruised ribs. As he opened his eyes he realized he was in an upright position. The force of the explosion had literally cracked the flight of stairs in two causing the landing to slide down. This is what Standish found himself lying against.

It took a moment for his eyes to adjust to the darkness.

"Mary?" Ezra called out as he struggled to his feet.

When only silence answered him the ATF agent looked over the destroyed railing to the next flight of stairs.

Ezra's heart froze as he spotted the widow. She was lying on her back unconscious trapped under the metal railing.

Ezra noted that there was several pieces of concrete blocking his way down. All of them too big to move.

Seeing only one other option Ezra dropped to his knees next to the broken railing. Standish grasped the jagged edge of the floor and jumped down to the next level.

+ + + + + + +

Police officers and firemen who were lucky enough to see Chris Larabee coming were spared the leader's legendary wrath.

Those who were too slow were swatted out of the way like they were flies.

Chris had almost made it to the front door of the building before one man was able to block his path.

Orin Travis.

"Get out of my way, Judge," Chris ordered tersely. He had two members of his team unaccounted for. He needed answers and he needed them yesterday.

Travis shook his head as he clamped a firm hand down on Larabee's left shoulder, "I know what you're feelin', Chris but you can't go in there yet. it's unstable the bomb squad hasn't been able to confirm if there's more than one bomb."

Chris broke his grasp as he took a step toward the building, "I'll take the chance, Judge. I've got two of my team unaccounted for."

"The building was evacuated before the device went off," Travis replied.

"You're absolutely sure everyone got out?" Chris demanded.

Travis sighed inwardly, "No, we're not sure that's why the bomb squad is sending in robots as we speak."

Larabee turned on his heel and stalked toward the cluster of police cars where the bomb squad was coordinating the investigation.

+ + + + + + +

Jonathan Zellar chuckled as he sat in a black corvette in a downtown parking garage. The red haired man shook his head as he looked at the classified section of the local newspaper.

"Wilmington, you're getting way too predictable in your old age," Zellar commented as he read the small ad, "All right then, I'll see your bet and raise it."

Zellar glanced at the car's dashboard clock before backing out of the parking spot.

+ + + + + + +

Landing upright on the landing below was no problem.

Regaining his balance once his feet hit the cement was quite another. Ezra discovered as his hands flailed in an effort to keep himself upright.

Standish nearly tumbled down the stairs before he finally grabbed the metal railing and pulled himself into a standing position.

Through the whole thing Mary had remained still which disturbed Ezra greatly.

Ezra climbed over the pile of debris and knelt next to the reporter. He discovered a pulse but it was thready and weak.

Her breathing wasn't labored which led Standish to believe that none of her ribs were broken.

One blessing.

Standish rose halfway and turned on his heels setting about the task of clearing the debris.

Ten minutes later Ezra had managed to clear away most of the smaller chunks of concrete. But three of them were too heavy for him to lift so he left them where they were.

During which time Ezra had taken in his surroundings. The landing above them which led to the ATF office was out of the question as far as escape was concerned. The next flight down from the duo was blocked off by debris.

But all of the debris was cleared away from Mary and that was what mattered the most at the moment.

Ezra sighed inwardly as he leaned back against the wall. Now all he could do was wait and keep Mary comfortable until the Calvary arrived.

That is of course if there wasn't another bomb.

+ + + + + + +

Buck Wilmington maneuvered through the quiet cemetery. As he got closer to his destination the dark haired agent felt guilt start to build. He should've come here sooner than this.

Twenty feet.....

Fifteen feet.....


Buck swallowed hard as he knelt next to the grave. He took off his hat as he gently caressed the name carved on the tombstone. Since there hadn't been anything left of JD's body there was no need for a grave. But the tombstone served as a memorial to the fallen agent.

Wilmington closed his eyes briefly as memories threatened to overwhelm him.

Damn it.....this should be the other way around.

Buck opened his eyes as he placed three comic books by the new headstone, "I figured you'd get more use out of these than flowers," Wilmington began swallowing hard to keep his voice steady, "I'm sorry I didn't come sooner, kid, but I had things to take care of."

Wilmington glanced down at the numerous items placed by the headstone. JD's badge was nestled among a half dozen flower bouquets.

Buck swallowed hard as he traced the picture. He had always teased JD about that photo the kid looked about twelve in it.

The dark haired agent shook his head sadly.....too young....too damn young.

"If I could switch places with you kid, I would," Buck commented softly as he fought back tears, "It wasn't your time yet......I miss you JD."

"Well isn't this a touching scene," a male voice said from behind causing Buck to stiffen.


Wilmington rose slowly to his feet turning to face his enemy gun drawn, "For a dead man you look pretty good, Zellar."

Jonathan Zellar chuckled, "Did you really think a puny explosion would take me out?"

Buck glared at the older man as he thought back to that day. The explosion of the two railroad cars had nearly taken out half the railroad yard along with Chris.

"Let's get down to business," Wilmington replied as he pulled back the trigger on the gun.

+ + + + + + +

Vin Tanner was halfway back to Chris's ranch when he heard the call for the bomb squad come over the police ban.

The tracker's heart constricted as he listened to the details.

Vin swung the jeep into a hard u-turn leaving half an inch of tire on the pavement.

As he headed back toward the office Vin did a headcount of who had been at the ranch.

Tanner's grip tightened on the wheel as he passed slower moving vehicles wishing he had a siren.

The only one who had left had been Ezra.

Vin could only pray that the call for the bomb squad would turn out to be a false alarm.

The Seven was barely recovering from nearly losing the kid.

They couldn't handle another loss.

+ + + + + + +

"What the hell is taking so long?" Chris Larabee demanded as he stood surrounded by four members of the bomb squad. It had been ten minutes since he had arrived at the office and the robot was still sitting by the bomb squad truck.

Patrick Miller was a seasoned veteran of the Denver police force. The last ten years of his

career had been spent as head of the bomb squad.

"There was a glitch in the computer program," the brown haired man replied calmly, "It took us a few minutes to fix it and reboot the system. Ketner's sending the robot in now."

Larabee opened his mouth to reply but quickly closed it. Instead of the curt reply he had planned he gave Miller a curt nod before turning around to face the familiar building.

Miller turned to the young black man, "How's it look, Ketner?"

"Ready to roll, boss," John Kenter replied grimly his fingers hovering over the controls.

"Send her in," Miller ordered as all pairs of eyes turned to watch the small robot slowly enter the building.

Chris's gaze never left the door. He hadn't known Ezra long but Chris trusted the man's instinct's.

The two agents hadn't exactly seen eye to eye when Standish first joined the ATF. But Chris had respected the man's arrest record and over the past year Standish had become an important part of the Seven.

And a friend.

No matter what happened here today Zellar would not shatter the Seven.

Larabee heard footsteps approaching him and he didn't have to look to see who it was.

"How's it look, cowboy?" Tanner asked grimly as he followed Larabee's gaze to the small robot.

Chris shook his head, "Not good. Everybody in the building's accounted for except Standish. Dispatch confirmed that he was the one who called in the evacuation order."

"Damn," Vin said quietly, "How many?"

"One bomb already exploded taking our office with it and most of the eleventh floor," Chris replied as he folded his arms across his chest, "Travis won't let anybody in until the bomb squad gives the okay."

"Standard procedure, Chris, "Vin stated, "You know that."

"Yeah, I know," Larabee replied softly, "I just have this feeling that if Ezra was in there when it blew he doesn't have much time for us to stand around and follow procedure."

Chris ran a weary hand over the back of his neck as he turned to look at his friend, "What'd you find out about Buck?"

Vin sighed, "Nothing good. I found the hotel but he was already gone. And from what I found he knows about Zellar being behind the car bomb."

"Damn," Chris replied darkly.

Both men glanced up as Travis approached them. Vin straightened at the grim look on the Judge's face.

"What is it?" Larabee demanded quietly.

Orrin put his cellular phone back in his pocket as he replied, "Just got a call from one of the reporters at the Clarion. Mary told him she planned to stop off here before returning to the office. That was an hour ago and nobody's heard from her."

A chill raced up Chris's spine as he looked back at the shattered building, "To hell with procedure," Larabee replied angrily as he stormed past Travis and entered the building.

+ + + + + + +

With the career he had chosen Nathan Jackson was used to tense situations. It came with the job. But this one was different.

Nathan sighed as he turned away from the window and glanced at the VCR clock. It had been over twenty minutes since Chris had left here like a bat out of hell and still no word.

The healer turned at the sound of soft footfalls on the wood floor, "JD you shouldn't be out of bed."

JD ignored his friend as he glanced around the room, "Where's Chris?" He asked softly.

Nathan took in the dark bruises and cuts on his friend's face and the white bandages covering his hands as he stepped forward, "No arguments, JD. Come on, lets get you back into bed. You pulled out that IV didn't you?"

JD stood his ground, "What's going on, Nathan?" The young agent asked anxiously, "Something happen to Buck?"

Nathan placed a hand on the youth's shoulder turning him around, "No, Buck's fine. Chris just had some things back at the office that he had to take care of."

+ + + + + + +

Zellar didn't flinch as Buck aimed the gun at his head, "Do we really need to end this with senseless violence?"

Buck glared at him, "That's how it started didn't it?" He asked coldly as he vividly remembered armored car guard's wife having to tell their nine year old daughter that her father was never coming home.

Jonathan tilted his head to the side as he folded his arms across his chest, "Revisiting memory lane are we?"

Buck ignored the question as he struggled to fight the rage that was building. He now understood why Chris drowned himself in a bottle after his family's death. This bastard was cracking jokes while JD was gone......

"I never pegged you as a coward, Zellar," Wilmington replied in a clipped tone as he took a step forward, "I understand the poetic justice of the bomb but it's still a cowardly move. If you wanted me dead there were other ways to do it. You obviously knew where I was; knew what my habits were. "

"One man's opinion on cowardliness might not be the same as another's," Zellar replied with a smile, "But I do see your point of view. Why don't you just ask what you really want to know.....about the boy's death."

At the mention of JD, Wilmington's eyes narrowed into slits, "The bomb was never ment for me, was it?" Buck asked as realization dawned, "You knew that the kid's bike was in the shop."

Zellar smiled widely, "Very good, Agent Wilmington. I was beginning to think you wouldn't figure it out. You are correct if I had wanted you dead I could have killed you at any moment. But because of the agony I suffered after the incident at the railroad yard I wanted you to feel that suffering."

+ + + + + + +

Ezra leaned forward and gently brushed a stray blonde bang away from the widow's forehead.

He wished he had paid more attention to Nathan's lectures on first aide. It concerned him that the reporter had yet to awaken.

Standish rocked back on his heels as he monitored Mary's breathing. It was labored and uneven.

Which caused Ezra to wonder if he hadn't cleared the debris away soon enough. A broken rib could easily cause a punctured lung if the rib was at the correct angle.

"Stay with us, Mrs. Travis," Ezra pleaded softly, "I do not wish to be the one to tell Mr. Larabee of your passing."

+ + + + + + +

Chris had made it to the fourth floor before Vin caught up with him. The Tracker didn't say a word but Chris knew he wasn't pleased with his actions.

"I couldn't sit there any longer, Vin," Larabee stated quietly as the duo raced up the stairs.

"I know," Vin replied as he rounded the corner of the sixth floor, "History won't repeat itself, Chris."

Chris closed his eyes briefly as memories of three years ago came flooding back, "It better not."


Comments to: