Devil's Hand

by Cindy Brewer

ATF Alternate Universe


JD watched Nathan carefully as they entered the small bedroom. Ezra wasn't the only one who could read poker faces and Nate wasn't doing a very good job of it.

Something big was going on and JD was being kept out of the loop.

JD knew that Chris and Nathan were only doing this to protect him but JD didn't want to be protected.

If he had he would've chosen a different career.

"What's going on Nathan?" JD asked as he sat down on the corner of the bed, "And don't tell me its nothing because if it was nothing Buck would be here."

Nathan paused in his task of reorganizing the few medical supplies in the small leather bag.

If he told JD what was going on Chris and Buck would kill him.

But if he didn't tell the youth Nathan knew JD would leave and find out on his own which could end just as disastrously

Nathan turned and helped JD to his feet, "Let's go sit in the living room. I'll answer all the questions I can."

+ + + + + + +

Chris Larabee did a double take as he suddenly found himself being slammed against the left wall of the stairwell.

As air returned to his lungs Chris finally saw the five foot piece of concrete laying where he had been standing only seconds before.

"Thanks," Larabee replied as he glanced at Tanner.

The tracker nodded as he gestured to the flight of stairs above them, "I don't think we can get any farther this way. We'll have to get to them from above."

Chris nodded as he turned toward the door, "If they're even on that floor."

Vin followed him out into the darkened corridor, "The bomb guys are sure that this bomb is the same kind as the one that took out Buck's truck. If it is they wouldn't have much time to find safe haven before it went off."

+ + + + + + +

In a tackle most professional football players would envy Buck slammed Jonathan Zellar to the ground.

Buck crushed his right forearm against the older man's throat.

He wasn't thinking....not really.

All he could see was the kid.

JD had finally found happiness and this bastard had taken it away as an afterthought of revenge.

"Let's see, "Buck began in a voice clipped with emotion, "How many different ways are there to kill a human being without a weapon? Shall we try them all?"

Zellar struggled to speak as Wilmington's hands tightened around his throat, "Y-You won't k-kill me....."

Wilmington snatched Zellar up by the shirt collar and slammed him against a nearby tombstone, "And why wouldn't I? Why would I even waste my breath talkin' to scum like you."

Zellar smiled, "You kill me you won't find out....."

Buck's eyes narrowed as he tightened his hold on Zellar's throat, "Find out what?!"

"That your grief is only an illusion," Zellar replied with a cold smile.

Ezra Standish glanced at his watch surprised to see that it hadn't been broken during the explosion.

It had been nearly forty minutes since he and Mary had first discovered the bomb.

The Calvary was long over due.

Which led Standish to two possible conclusions.

One: that the bomb in the break room hadn't been the only one.

Two: That his esteemed colleagues had written them off as a lost cause.

Knowing Chris Larabee as well as he did Ezra knew the second option wasn't an option.

Ezra shrugged out of his dark brown coat and covered Mary's still form.

With Mary still unconscious Ezra wasn't sure how long they could sit there and wait for a rescue.

+ + + + + + +

JD was halfway out the door before he realized he was only wearing a long t-shirt.

The youth reluctantly turned and headed back toward the small bedroom

However Nathan caught him before he reached it, "Don't even think it, JD. You're staying here."

JD glared at him, "Buck needs us! I'm not going to just sit here while he destroys his career."

"I think his career is the last thing Buck is thinking about right now," Nathan replied quietly.

JD ignored the wave of dizziness that threatened to topple him, "That's exactly why we can't just sit here, Nathan."

Nathan placed a gentle hand on the youth's shoulder, "JD, you know Chris won't let Buck do anything stupid."

Exhaustion won over any half-baked plan that JD was cooking up.

Nathan reached forward to catch the youth before he hit the floor.

+ + + + + + +

"What the hell do you think you're doing?" Orin Travis demanded as he approached

Patrick Miller.

Miller blinked, "Moving the robot to another part of the building so we can do a complete scan."

"Did I tell you that you could move it?" Orin asked in a clipped tone.

Miller shook his head, "No Sir, I just thought this would be......"

"Larabee needs all the information he can get to save those two people," Travis replied as he glanced at the building, "And we're going to get it to him which means leaving the robot where it is to do the scan. If there is another device we're wasting precious time moving it."

Miller nodded as he motioned to Ketner, Preliminary readouts tell us that there is only one device."

"Do you want to gamble their lives on preliminary results?" Travis asked sharply.

"No Sir," Miller replied as he stepped away to see if Ketner needed any help.

+ + + + + + +

Buck cocked the hammer on his gun and pulled back the trigger as he leveled it at Zellar's head, "You're only babbling to save your own skin."

"If you kill me you'll never know if the boy is alive," Jonathan replied smugly not the least bit phased by the gun barrel pressed against his temple.

Buck swallowed hard as he tapped his heart with his free hand, "I'd know here if he was still alive. That boy was more family to me than any blood relative I have."

Zellar nodded, "And isn't that very sentiment worth the risk of keeping me alive a few minutes longer?"

As Buck moved in for the kill squeezing the trigger harder he suddenly found himself hesitating.

The rational part of him knew that Zellar was only doing this to save his own worthless life.

But the other part of Buck couldn't help but wonder if Zellar was telling the truth.

If there was even the slimmest possibility that JD was still among the living he owed it to the kid to find out.

+ + + + + + +

Vin made quick work of the ventilation grate that would give them access to the stairwell below.

Chris shifted uncomfortably in the tight space of the interlocking system of duct shafts.

"How close are we?" Larabee asked quietly as he struggled to get closer to the gate's opening.

Vin removed the last screw and pushed the gate away letting it fall to the ground below, "We're on the tenth floor. They should be right above us."

"If they're together," Chris reminded the tracker.

"If she was in the office at the time of the explosion, "Vin replied as he maneuvered his thin frame to the edge of the opening, "Ez would've got her out."

Larabee nodded, "Let's just get out of this thing I'm startin' to get claustrophobic."

Vin quietly jumped the five feet down to the stair landing and stepped back allowing space for Larabee to jump.

Despite the tight fit for his six foot plus frame Chris dropped to the ground a few seconds after Tanner.

"What's our clock?" Larabee asked as he started to climb the stairs.

Vin glanced at his watch, "Its been an hour since the bomb went off."

Chris's jaw tightened but he didn't reply.

He could only pray that they weren't too late.

+ + + + + + +

Ezra stood even though there wasn't enough room to pace.

He glanced down at Mary's still form and sighed inwardly.

He had never been good at waiting....he was even worse at being helpless.

Standish knelt down next to the reporter to check on her condition. He was alarmed to discover how cold Mary's skin was to the touch.

Ezra didn't need Nathan here to tell him that was a classic sign of a person going into shock.

With nothing else to cover the woman with Ezra tucked the coat tighter around Mary's shoulder's.

Ezra turned to look at the wall of debris that blocked their escape. There had to be a way through that.

Standish turned back to Mary's still form, "I promise you, Mrs. Travis I will get us out of here."

+ + + + + + +

Twenty minutes later Buck found himself at the small warehouse where Zellar claimed JD was held..

After they exited Wilmington's car Buck slammed the but of his gun into the small of Zellar's back forcing him to move forward, "If you're lying Zellar, I swear I'll kill you where you stand."

Zellar ignored Wilmington's threat as he unlocked the door to the warehouse and stepped inside.

As Buck's eyes adjusted to the darkness his mind began to add up the days that had passed since the explosion.

Ironically the answer was seven.

Buck winced inwardly as he imagined what could have been done to the youth in seven days.

Seven days locked in a dark hole in the wall not knowing what was going to happen next.

Not knowing if you were going to get food or water the next day.

Buck shook his head as if that simple motion would force away the ugly images.

Zellar silently led the ATF agent to a small room to the right and back of the warehouse.

Zellar made quick work of the lock and the old door creaked loudly as it was opened.

Buck shoved Zellar forward into the room trying to keep his emotions in check.

Even before Wilmington's eyes adjusted to the darkness Buck could feel that the room was empty.

He grasped Zellar roughly by his left shoulder and whirled him around as he leveled the gun at his head, "You lying, son of a bitch! "

Zellar smiled, "The boy was your Achilles heel."

Buck wasted no more words on his enemy as he cocked the hammer of his gun and began to squeeze the trigger.

It was only then he saw a shadow move out of the corner of his eye, but it was too late to do anything.

A heavy object crashed against the back of Wilmington's skull sending him sprawling onto the cement floor.

"Cutting that a little close, aren't we, Mr. Cross?" Zellar asked the young black haired man who stood behind Wilmington clutching a pipe.

"Sorry, Sir, I was delayed by traffic," Cross replied as he lowered the pipe.

Zellar shrugged, "No matter, tie him up and lock him in here until I decide how to kill him."

"Yes, Sir," Cross replied as he began to bind Buck's hands with rope.

+ + + + + + +

Ezra pushed up the sleeves of his shirt and began the painstaking task of clearing away the debris.

The southerner tossed aside several broken ceiling tiles and had just picked up a large chunk of cement when he heard movement on the other side.

Or at least he thought he had.

Ezra quickly set aside the chunk of cement and climbed as far up the 'mountain' of rubble as he could.

"Hello?" Ezra called as he continued to clear away smaller pieces of debris, "Can anyone hear me?"

For several long moments Standish thought he had imagined the sound then a familiar voice drifted through.

"Ezra, its Chris," Larabee called as he and Vin worked to clear the rubble on their end, "Sit tight we'll get you out. Place is clear....the only bomb was in the office.Are you hurt?"

Ezra nodded, "That is good news, Mr. Larabee but I'm afraid I don't have any to return. Mrs. Travis is badly injured and needs to be immediately evacuated."

Chris closed his eyes briefly as he fought to control his emotions, "Vin's already radioed your location to Travis. We'll have you out of there as soon as we can."

+ + + + + + +

Jonathan Zellar glanced out the window of the warehouse's small office. Granted his plan for revenge hadn't gone exactly according to plan but he had accomplished what he wanted.

The "Magnificent Seven' was destroyed or at the very least rattled to their core.

He could leave Wilmington in there to rot and walk away. Live the rest of his life in a sunny tropical paradise under another name where the great arm of the law would never reach him.

As Jonathan looked down at his left hand he knew he wouldn't be completely satisfied until Wilmington was dead.

He flexed his hand absently as he remembered the excruciating pain of endless operations to save it after it had been burned and crippled in the fire.

"Mr. Cross," Zellar called as he returned his attention to the window.

The black haired man poked his head into the small room, "Yes, Sir?"

"Has Mr. Wilmington waken yet?" Zellar asked quietly.

Cross shook his head, "No, Sir."

Zellar nodded, "Do whatever you have to do to bring him around. Then bring him to the main room."

"Yes, Sir," Cross replied before quickly leaving the room.

+ + + + + + +

Even with the help of the bomb squad, Denver police department and off duty ATF agents it still took nearly an hour for them to clear a man sized hole in the rubble.

Larabee was the first one through followed closely by Vin and two paramedics.

One paramedic quickly went over to Ezra and began to treat the agent's bloodied and bruised hands before Standish pushed him away.

"I believe the lady requires your assistance more than I do," Standish stated as he slid into a sitting position watching the other paramedic work to stabilize Mary.

Vin knelt next to the weary southerner, "Ez, let them look you over. Mrs. Travis is in good hands."

Ezra looked over his friend's shoulder in time to see Chris kneel next to Mary's still form followed closely by four more paramedics, "All right," Standish replied wincing as the paramedic quickly applied antiseptic, "Have you located Mr. Wilmington?"

Vin shook his head, "Came close but he was already gone."

"Before the building fell down around us I did discover who the criminal mind was behind this," Ezra replied as he glanced up in time to see the paramedics carefully carry Mary out on a stretcher.

Vin nodded, "Zellar isn't as dead as we thought." He placed a reassuring hand on Standish's shoulder as he helped him to his feet, "Come on lets get you out of here."

Ezra stood, "I will go, Mr. Tanner but not to a hospital."

"Ezra....," Vin started to protest but Standish cut him off.

"With Mr. Jackson looking after Mr. Dunne and Mr. Sanchez guarding Ms. Wells our numbers are greatly diminished," Ezra replied as the two agents followed the paramedic out into the hallway, "I have a few sources that shall we say Mr. Larabee isn't aware of which will aide us in our search for Zellar."

+ + + + + + +

Buck Wilmington opened his eyes and instantly regretted the movement as his head started to swim.

Fighting back the nausea Buck closed his eyes briefly trying to control the spinning.

Zellar nodded and Cross moved behind Wilmington and roughly slammed him back against the wooden pole

Buck winced inwardly as his arms were painfully pinned behind him and bound together with his own handcuffs.

Zellar stopped a few paces from him, "You've been a worth opponent, Mr. Wilmington so

I have thought long and hard about how to kill you. In the end only one answer became apparent and I think you'll see the poetic irony of it."

Buck's narrowed sharply as Zellar pulled a book of matches out of his jacket pocket. But that was the only reaction he gave. No matter what happened Buck vowed that he would not give Zellar the satisfaction of seeing his fear.

Jonathan gestured toward the perimeter of the warehouse, "The walls of this building are doused heavily with gasoline and once I light this match....." He met Buck's gaze, "Well I believe you know the rest. Mr. Cross......"

The young man nodded and quickly left the warehouse.

Buck glared at his enemy, "I promise you, Zellar, you will not get away with this. You will be held accountable for the boy's death even if I have to come after you from the grave."

The older man only laughed as he struck the match and let it fall before he turned and left the building.

+ + + + + + +

Dusk was coloring the sky by the time the leads from Ezra's 'sources' led them to the warehouse district.

En route Vin had filled Chris in and got an update on Mary's condition. She was critical but stable having received a couple cracked ribs and a bruised left lung.

"This is still an awfully big haystack," Vin commented dryly as he stepped out of the car and glanced around at the group of twenty warehouses.

Standish nodded, "I'm afraid my source could not pinpoint Mr. Zellar's exact location."

They walked about three blocks before spotting a small warehouse that was set apart from the others.

"He's coming full circle," Vin replied as he pulled out a pair of binoculars that could sense body heat, "JD said he was held in a small warehouse. This one fits his description."

Ezra reached for his cellular phone, "I'll call for reinforcements."

Vin shook his head as he scanned the building, "Won't get here in time. Three people in the building one ain't moving."

"If Mr. Wilmington is in there he won't be in the best state of mind," Ezra noted as he checked his ammunition and the condition of his weapon. Both a time consuming task with his hands wrapped in bandages. But he could still fire a weapon and that was what was important at the moment.

Movement snatched Vin's attention back to the warehouse, "Someone's leavin' let's move."

+ + + + + + +

Zellar left just before the first flames started to lick the right wall.

Buck moved back and forth against the pole hoping to pry it loose from the foundation. The wood was rotted in places which Buck hoped would speed the process.

After several long moments Buck heard a crack. He glanced up to find a five-inch long splinter in the wood starting at the top of the pole.

Unfortunately the progress was too little too late the fire had caught the gasoline trail and began to engulf the building.

Buck glanced at the fire before redoubling his efforts to escape, but even as he did so he knew that it would take a miracle for him to survive.

+ + + + + + +

As Vin and Ezra got closer to the warehouse they spotted a dark haired man leaving the warehouse.

The man looked at the twin guns aimed at him and quickly turned to run hoping to escape around the back of the warehouse.

Ezra however tackled the smaller man before he got to the corner of the building.

Vin was about to go help Standish when another man stepped out. Tanner's blood ran cold as he instantly recognized Zellar.

"Delightful to see you again, Mr. Tanner," Jonathan stated with a smile, "But I really must be going. I have a plane to catch."

Vin leveled his rifle at Zellar's head as he took several steps forward, "The only place you're goin' is back to prison."

The red haired man shook his head as he lit another match and tossed it onto the front wall of the warehouse, "Think again, Mr. Tanner."

Vin backpedaled as flames instantly engulfed the front wall of the building. By the time Vin glanced back in the direction Zellar was he was gone.

The sharpshooter quickly scanned the area. Vin knew he had to get Buck out of the building but also knew that if Zellar got away he wouldn't be easy to track.

Finally Vin spotted Zellar running toward the next warehouse. Vin raised his rifle the smoke and heat from the fire making it difficult to see. He squeezed off a shot and was rewarded with a yelp of pain as Zellar collapsed to the ground.

The tracker turned to his right, "Ez, get Buck out of there. I'll take care of these two."

When only silence answered him Vin turned to discover that the southerner was gone.

Tanner sighed as he hauled the unconscious felon to his feet, I hope you know what you're doing, Ezra.

+ + + + + + +

Ezra Standish had done what his mother had taught him so long ago, take advantage of a situation.

While Vin was detaining Mr. Zellar, Ezra smashed the office window of warehouse. He could only hope he could retrieve Mr. Wilmington and escape out the same way before the fire took the whole building.

Pulling a handkerchief out of his pocket Ezra used it as a makeshift bandanna to cover his mouth and nose.

Wasting no time Ezra climbed through the broken window and quickly maneuvered through the small office and out into the main portion of the warehouse.

By the time Standish reached Buck the older agent was still conscience and struggling against his constraints but the heavy smoke was making it difficult for him to breathe.

Ezra took off his makeshift bandanna and tied it around Buck's head as he scurried around to the back of the pole to undue the bindings.

Ezra frowned as he saw the handcuffs, "Buck, do you have your handcuff key?" The southerner shouted hoping Buck heard him over the roar of the flames.

Standish saw his friend turn his head slightly toward the back as if he was trying to locate the source of the sound.

Sensing that his friend was fighting a loosing battle Ezra hunted in his own pockets praying that the tiny handcuff key hadn't been knocked out during the explosion.

Finally Ezra's hand closed around the small piece of metal and he sent off a prayer of thanks to whoever was watching over them.


Comments to: