Disclaimer: I do not own them, CBS and Trilogy do. Nor do I own the world of ATF. They are the creation of the immensely talented Mog. Thank you, we are all in your debt.
Wednesday, FBI Headquarters
She calmly stared back at the blond-haired man giving her a look of death with his narrowed green eyes. Although the look on her face remained impassive, her dark blue eyes mocked his.
Decidedly pissed off and thoroughly fed up, Chris Larabee pushed angrily away from the table and turned to storm out of the interrogation room, slamming the door behind him. Two of the other six men on his elite ATF team, waited for him outside. Vin Tanner leaned against the wall of the corridor, while Ezra Standish sat in a chair, studying his nails half-heartedly.
"From that look, I'm going to presume things are not going well." Ezra said, looking up at his enraged leader.
"She's not talking, and her lawyer's doing a hell of a job. Too bad I can't say the same for that incompetent idiot from the FBI." Chris replied flatly.
"We gonna let her go then?" Vin asked.
"Looks that way. Damn it!" Chris said, slamming his palm against the concrete wall. Vin looked pointedly at Ezra. The door swung open again, as the agent from the FBI stepped out, holding his briefcase. He saw Chris staring daggers at him. "Look, Larabee, I'm sorry. There's no evidence against Ms. Westbrooke. She's free to go.," Shrugging his shoulders. "I'm sorry." he glanced down at his watch, "I have another appointment, if you'll excuse me."
Chris grabbed the agent's arm as he attempted to walk past him. He stared down at the shorter man, and muttered, "Wizeki, I'm going to have your ass." before he flung him away disgustedly. The FBI agent hurried away.
Katherine Westbrooke stepped outside the interrogation room with her attorney. "Thank you James. I don't know what I would do without you." she smiled to the portly, well-dressed man besides her.
"My pleasure Katherine. Please, try and stay out of trouble." James Davenport winked.
"I always try to stay out of trouble, but trouble always seems to find me." she laughed lightly.
"I have a luncheon appointment, but we're still on for dinner next Friday?" James asked, turning to leave.
"Of course. I haven't seen Frances in ages. Give her my regards." Katherine replied, as he turned to walk away. Looking up, she saw the three ATF agents glaring at her.
"Mr. Larabee, it's been a very enlivening experience." she held out her hand. Chris glanced down at it, before replying, "Lady, you just got away with murder."
Taking back her hand, she smiled softly, "Mr. Larabee, how very presumptuous of you. Although I can be accused of many things, murder is not one of them. Good day, gentlemen." she turned to leave.
Chris gripped her arm, and swung her back around. "Listen you little bitch. Two of my men are in the hospital because of you, and I intend to make you pay." he hissed viciously.
"Mr. Larabee, I suggest that you let go of my arm before I bring you up on charges of assault." Katherine said icily.
Chris released her and smirked, "Go ahead and try."
Katherine smiled glacially, brushing back a strand of black hair, "Good afternoon, gentleman." she repeated.
"Ms. Westbrooke." Ezra drawled evenly, seeing that Chris was about to lose control. Katherine shifted her gaze to meet the southerner's. He sucked in his breath at the sight of her, before she abruptly turned away.
She nodded to the trio, and walked away, the heels of her shoes gently clicking against the tiles of the floor.
"That little bi-," Chris bit out viciously, before Vin put a restraining hand on his arm.
"I wouldn't be so hasty in your judgment, Mr. Larabee," Ezra murmured, "I believe there's more to Katherine Westbrooke than meets the eye."
Chris glared at the southerner, "What? Are you defend-"
Vin cut him off gently, "Chris, let's get down to the hospital."
Denver General Hospital
His head against the wall of the waiting room, Buck Wilmington closed his eyes tiredly. He looked up as he heard the entrance of the three men.
"Any change?" Vin asked, frowning, and shaking his head slightly.
Realizing the outcome of the interrogation, Buck sighed before answering, "They're finishing patching up the kid, but Josiah's still up in surgery. No luck, huh?"
Vin shook his head, "Nope. They released her.," Buck swore under his breath. Ezra approached the two men. "How are our compatriots Mr. Wilmington?"
"JD's okay. Kid's tough." Buck smiled ruefully. "He's got a couple of bruises, his ribs are gonna be sore for about a week or so, and his arm's broken. Like I said, he'll be okay. As for Josiah, they're still working him over in surgery. He hit his head pretty hard, but they're more worried about his kidney. They're trying to get the slug out without damaging it."
Ezra looked heavenward. "I'm sure Mr. Sanchez has divine providence on his side.," He turned to look at Chris who was talking quietly to the resident EMT of the group, Nathan Jackson. Buck followed his gaze. "Chris doing okay?"
"Nope. He's ready to blow." Vin answered. Buck stood up to talk to his friend and leader, when JD appeared in the doorway of the waiting room.
"Hey guys. I'm ready to go." he announced. "How's Josiah?"
Buck turned to look at the young man, and grinned. "JD, boy, you look like shit."
"And I feel like it too. How's Josiah?" he asked again.
"Still in surgery." Chris answered, his tone softening at the sight of the battered young agent.
"He gonna be okay?" JD asked, his hazel eyes growing wide with apprehension.
"You know old Josiah. He's got a hard head. He'll pull through." Nathan reassured him, trying to keep the fear out of his own voice. JD nodded hesitantly.
"I guess we're gonna wait, then?" he asked.
"No way, kid. You're getting yourself home and in bed. The rest of us will stay here." Chris answered firmly.
"Chris, I'm fine-," JD began.
"Not a chance. We'll call you if there's any change." Chris shook his head. "Buck, you drive.," Buck nodded as he gently took JD's good arm, and led him to the door.
Monday, ATF Headquarters
The elevator doors closed firmly as Orrin Travis stepped off. His brows furrowed, he walked directly to the conference room, where the secretary had told him the team would be.
"Excuse me for interrupting boys, but I thought this couldn't wait." he said, swinging open the doors. The six seated members looked at him expectantly.
"Judge Travis." Chris nodded. "What's going on?"
Scanning the room, his eyes fell on the battered image of JD Dunne. His unruly locks of black hair fell to partially conceal a nasty black eye, and his left arm was in a sling. Orrin sighed. "You all right son?" he asked him. JD nodded hurriedly, "I'm fine, sir. Nothing that hasn't happened before."
"How's Josiah?" Orrin asked the others.
"They're moving him today from the ICU. It's serious, but he's conscious and he'll make it." Nathan replied.
Orrin nodded relief evident on his face. He frowned before continuing, "I don't want to tell you this, but it's better that you hear it from me than some other beaurocratic idiot. Headquarters is giving you two choices in regards to the Janus Corporation case."
Noticing his hesitation, Ezra prodded him, "And those choices would be?"
"Get off the case." he held up his hands as Chris leapt to his feet, outraged, "or, get help."
"Help? What kind of help?" Chris' eyes narrowed.
"Help in the form of a civilian well acquainted with the workings of Janus." Orrin replied, growing more and more uncomfortable with what he had to say.
"A civilian? Orrin, you know I don't really like outside interference. Any outside interference." Chris said.
"You've got no other choice." Orrin said, rubbing his brow.
"Who's the civilian?" Vin asked quietly.
Realizing there was no sense in beating around the bush, Orrin replied, "Katherine Westbrooke.," He stood and waited for the explosion, which was not long in coming.
"What?!" both Chris roared.
"You've got to be kidding!" Buck said, furiously.
"If HQ thinks that I would ever allow Katherine Westbrooke anywhere near my team after what she's done, they are out of their goddamn minds!" Chris thundered.
"Like I said, you have no choice." Orrin said tiredly. "Chris, don't you think I tried? Do you think I want that- that woman working with you any more than you do?"
"Forget it, we're off the case then." Chris replied flatly.
"Chris, do you really want to walk away just because of her? You're the closest anyone has ever been to cracking this thing. I'll make sure she stays out of your way." Orrin pleaded.
"Chris, Judge Travis is right." JD spoke up. "I think we should do it.," Chris turned to look at the youngest member of the team. "You can glare at me all you want Chris, but we don't quit, remember? You're the one that taught me that."
Ezra broke in thoughtfully. "And just why is Ms. Westbrooke being so conciliatory?"
"She has no other alternative. Apparently, she's not interested in losing Janus completely. In fact, she says she's as disgusted by the gun-smuggling aspect of the company as we are."
Buck snorted. "Really, and where was all this concern when Hastings got killed?"
"I don't know Buck. But she's agreed to help and HQ's not going to pass on this one." Orrin replied.
"So when does she get here?" JD asked, rubbing his casted arm.
"Tomorrow morning. With someone from the FBI." Orrin said, before Chris cut him off vehemently.
"No! I may have to put up with little Miss Westbrooke, but the FBI can keep their noses out of this investigation. It's purely ATF business now."
"All right. All right.," Orrin shook his head. "I'll see what I can do, but Katherine Westbrooke is scheduled to come in tomorrow morning at nine."
"We'll be ready for her." Chris' lips stretched into a tight line.
After Orrin left, Vin turned to look at Chris. "So what are we going to do Chris?"
"Exactly what they want us to. We're going to accommodate Miss Westbrooke, but of course, there'll be time for our own questioning session.," He turned to JD, "All right get a full background check on her-everything, including her FBI file. Buck, Vin, you help him.," He smiled grimly, as the others turned to start their business.
Tuesday, ATF Headquarters
Parking her sleek, hunter-green, 1999 Mercedes CLK 320 Cabriolet, into an empty parking space, Katherine attempted to still the wild beating of her heart. She didn't know what the hell she was doing here, working with men who'd like to see her six feet under. "Well, Katie, that's nothing new." she thought bemusedly. Stepping out of her car, she grabbed the slender Prada briefcase from the passenger seat and slammed the door shut.
Upstairs, Chris stared at the clock with growing anxiety. "It's nine-fucking forty-five. Where is she?" JD and Nathan shared a look.
Catching the comment, as she gently opened the conference room door, Katherine tucked back a strand of hair, which had fallen, from her otherwise perfect coif. Her shoulder-length, straight black hair was pinned upwards elegantly. Taking a deep breath and tugging at the black coat of her Givenchy pantsuit she stepped forward, her black Gucci heels clicking gently against the tiles of the floor.
"I believe Mr. Larabee, the term is 'late' ," she answered cooly, as six pairs of eyes turned to look at her.
"I'm sorry if our hours are inconvenient. You're free to leave at anytime.," Chris gritted. Katherine arched an eyebrow at his hostile tone. "Somehow I get the feeling that you're not looking forward to working with me."
"Not at all, Miss Westbrooke," Ezra replied. "We're simply delighted."
"Mr. Standish, Mr. Tanner, how delightful to see you again." Katherine said, her gaze moving to the southerner. "I don't believe I know you three gentlemen, however," she looked meaningfully at the cluster of Buck, JD, and Nathan.
"Nathan Jackson," Nathan answered unsmiling.
"Buck Wilmington," Buck clenched his jaw, as he glared at her.
"JD Dunne.," Although aware of the tension in the room and the animosity directed towards the woman, JD stepped forward to extend his uninjured hand. "It's nice to meet you Miss Westbrooke."
A look of surprise passed Katherine's face, quickly replaced by the cool façade she wore at all times. "The pleasure is mine, Mr. Dunne." said replied, taking his hand with her own, staring evenly at his hazel eyes.
"Now that the pleasantries are over," Chris said, "why don't we get started?" He swung open the door to the conference room, which the other men filed dutifully into. "Coming, Miss Westbrooke?" he mocked.
"Of course," she followed the others inside. Taking off her dress coat, she hung it neatly on the back of the conference chair. Sitting down, she adjusted the sleeve of her burgundy silk shirt. The diamond-garnet earrings in her ears sparkled in the light of the room.
Glaring at the large garnet ring on her finger, Buck snapped, "A real rich bitch aren't you?" Katherine turned her cool blue eyes at the usually jovial ladies man. Her lips turning up slightly at the corners, she replied, "Yes."
Chris held up a hand to restrain the fuming agent, and attempted to regain his own composure. "Miss Westbrooke, you've agreed to assist us in our investigation of Janus Corporation, correct?" Katherine nodded, as he continued, "Good. Before we begin, let me make myself clear. None of us want to work with you. You are a conniving, frigid little bitch who compromised the lives of two of my men. The sooner you tell us what we want to know, the sooner we can all go our own separate ways. Is that clear Miss Westbrooke?"
Katherine's expression had remained impassive throughout his entire tirade, and she nodded. "But before we begin, let me make myself clear, Mr. Larabee," she said coldly, when he looked down at his notes. "I have no desire to work with any of you either. I am only here to preserve my father's and my own interests in Janus. While you seem to be convinced otherwise, the last thing I want Janus to become is a cover for illegal gunrunning. Yes, I will help you in your little investigation, but you better be damn sure nothing happens to my company. Is that clear?"
Chris returned her blue-eyed glare, "Crystal."
She stood up, her blue eyes steely, "and one more thing. I may have allowed you to question my integrity once, but that was because of extenuating circumstances. I realized the fragile frame of mind that you were in when your men were injured, but don't you ever accuse me of being the cause for your men's injuries again. I may be ruthless, calculating, and frigid, but I am not a murderer," Katherine sat down.
Although her expression had changed little over the course of her tirade, the men realized that she was furious, and the fact that she was completely calm in her anger, gave each of them pause.
"You- ," Chris began after she had finished, before she cut him off again.
"Bitch. So you've said. How unoriginal. Perhaps we should get started?" Katherine tossed a bored glance at her platinum wristwatch.
Two hours later . . .
Chris had to admit that the woman was being helpful and patient. He watched her as she calmly repeated herself for the fourth time to an impatient Buck.
"All right, we're almost through for the day," Chris announced, as the other men groaned in relief. "One more thing though." he pulled out a large manila envelope. Pulling out several black and white photographs, he slid them across the large conference table. They stopped easily in front of Katherine. "Who are the people in the pictures?"
Picking them up, she studied them carefully. "That's Jamison Curruthers. He's the CEO of Lexton Industries. This is Henry Garris, one of Janus' associate-vice-presidents. This is Mark Lewinstein, another associate vice-president. This is-," Chris looked up from taking notes, as she paused. The men shifted to look at her.
"It's-," Nathan prodded.
Katherine blanched, her hand trembling. Dropping the picture, she asked evenly, though it was evident she was shaken, "When were these pictures taken?"
"A few days ago- who's the guy?" Chris asked, his brow furrowed.
She closed her eyes, taking a deep breath. Opening them again slowly, she looked down at the glossy photograph in front of her. "It's- it's my father. Matthew Westbrooke," she answered her calm voice wavering.
"And that would be a cause for surprise, because?" Ezra raised an eyebrow, his green eyes narrowed as he watched the young woman's impeccable composure shatter. Despite what the others seemed to feel about her, he held a great deal of compassion for Katherine. Not only that he held a reluctant admiration for her grit and cool exterior, as he realized just how difficult it was to maintain. To watch her dissolve now was disconcerting.
"Because he's dead," JD replied the background check they had done on Katherine the previous day had indicated as much.
"I-," Katherine stood up. "I have to go.," She glanced down at her watch, "I have an appointment. I'll be in touch. Excuse me," she opened the door quickly, and walked rapidly to the elevator. Ezra glanced at the coat she had left behind, as the others exchanged looks.
"JD," Chris looked at the young agent. "I think it's time to look at that file you've compiled on Katherine Westbrooke."
Later . . .
"I don't believe all this stuff. All in all, you have to admit the woman has an impressive background." Buck said to the other three men in his office, as he flicked idly through the sheets the men were busily studying. Nathan and Chris had gone to the hospital to visit Josiah.
"Indeed Mr. Wilmington. Highly impressive," Ezra murmured, as he scanned her bio. "But it also seems as though our first impression of Miss Westbrooke was sorely mistaken. I don't believe she's a cold-blooded killer, in fact, I think she's as innocent in all of this as we are."
"Why? Because she's got an impressive resume?" Vin demanded. "Anyone rich can pull that off."
"No, because of these," Ezra tossed him a stack of photographs, attached to old magazine and newspaper articles.
Vin began to flip through them, with Ezra looking on, when Buck let out a low whistle, taking it from the stack, "Jesus, who the hell is this?" JD glanced up from what he was reading to look at the photograph.
"Anna Westbrooke," Ezra replied. "It's her mother."
"She's- she's beautiful," JD murmured, staring at the lovely brunette staring serenely back at him.
"Indeed. Anna Westbrooke was breathtaking. Her death was a tragedy," Ezra mused.
"How'd she die?" JD asked.
"Cancer. Miss Westbrooke was seventeen. Just a few months after that photograph was taken," Ezra replied, eyeing the top photograph in Vin's grasp.
The three other men stared critically at the picture. A younger, happier version of the woman who had stepped into their office stared back at them. There was none of the cool indifference in her bearing or a sense of artificiality in her smile. In fact, the young woman the picture exuded innocence and charm. Her smile was genuine, her dark blue eyes sparkling, as her dark hair fell past her shoulders in unruly waves. Laughing, her chin was titled upwards. She was, Ezra admitted silently to himself, as the other men admitted the same thing, as astounding as her mother.
"And then came the no-nonsense, cold, pain-in-the-ass we met today?" Buck asked, as Vin continued to flip.
"Apparently," Ezra replied, as they looked on as Vin plopped one after another photographs of Katherine in her business mode. Galas, corporate functions, meetings-looking utterly flawless, yet at the same time, totally lifeless.
"So the moral of this story would be?" JD asked, as Vin tossed the last photograph onto the table.
"That there is a great deal more to Miss Westbrooke than any of us are aware of," Ezra murmured.
"So where does that leave us then? And what do we do about her resurrected father?" Vin drawled.
JD shrugged, while Buck rubbed his mustache. Looking into the distance, Ezra ran a hand through his hair. "I believe that Miss Westbrooke left her coat. Common courtesy dictates that it be returned."
Vin and Buck exchanged looks, "Ezra, if you're thinking about going over to her place-," Buck began.
"It's a very expensive jacket, Mr. Wilmington. Besides, it's on my route home."
"Ez-," Vin mumbled. "Ya might want to think this through."
"I already have. Good evening, gentlemen," Ezra exited the office, as Vin plopped down in a chair and sighed deeply.
Later . . .
Sitting in her overstuffed armchair, Katherine gazed out the window. Drained from the day's events, she had been sitting in that chair for nearly four hours. Emotions had raged within her, but for the moment she was simply numb.
Betrayal. The single word had branded itself onto her mind. Her father had betrayed her. Faking his death, giving her the corporation-it had all been a very cleverly orchestrated plan, and she had done exactly what they all assumed she would-right up to taking the fall for the whole damned thing. Her blue eyes suddenly filled, threatening dangerously to spill over, as she realized what an utter fool they had played her for.
Lost in her own thoughts, she didn't hear the gentle click of the lock on her door, or the entrance of someone into her condo.
"You left your jacket Miss Westbrooke," a voice laced with a distinct southern accent broke into her thoughts. "And seeing as how it is Givenchy, I thought it only my duty as a civil servant to return it to you."
Katherine jumped at the intrusion and whirled around to stare at the unexpected and uninvited guest. Ezra Standish started back at her, standing in the center of her living room, holding out her jacket.
"How- how did you get in here?" Katherine demanded, using the back of her hand to quickly swipe at her eyes.
"I had a key," Ezra held up a small screwdriver.
"That's called breaking and entering," Katherine said flatly, too tired to engage in any sort of verbal sparring with the silver-tongued agent.
"I know," Ezra admitted.
"Get out before I call the police."
"Miss Westbrooke, I am the police. Well- to a certain extent, anyway."
"That entitles you to make unlawful intrusions onto innocent people's homes?"
"Your coat," Ezra held it out to her. She looked at him suspiciously before stepping forward to take it from him.
"All right, now get out. You've delivered the jacket."
"No expression of gratitude Miss Westbrooke? I thought you were taught better manners."
"Go to hell, and tell Larabee to stop playing his damn mind games. I don't know what he's after- what any of you are after, but I don't know anything! Get out, Mr. Standish."
"I assure you Mr. Larabee has no idea I'm here."
"He doesn't. I came of my own accord."
"Why? Just what is it you're after, Mr. Standish?"
"To return the jacket."
"It's returned. Thank you, now please leave," taking a deep breath, Katherine managed to gain some semblance of control.
"I also wanted to ask you a question."
"I'm really not up to it at the moment."
"Was that son of a bitch's acceptance so damn important that you sacrificed everything?" Ezra demanded, the genial charm gone. Katherine stared at him, stunned.
"Wh-What?" she stammered.
"Tell me, did he constantly remind you of how you weren't his child? How you would never be his real child, regardless of how hard you tried?" Ezra demanded. He continued, suddenly furious, "Philip Westbrooke was not your natural father, and he made that damn clear, didn't he? And now he's set you up. I only hope you're not stupid enough to take the fall."
"Get out," Katherine whispered harshly, looking as though he had struck her.
"Katherine, listen to me," Ezra said gently.
"You don't know what you're talking about. Get out!"
"I know exactly what I'm talking about. I know exactly what it feels like to have a stepfather treat you like garbage because you're not his natural born child. I know exactly what it's like to try to please someone who obviously cannot be pleased!"
Katherine looked at him dully, admitting defeat. "How did you know?"
"I work for the government. Didn't you think we'd know about your background?"
"Well then, what do you want Mr. Standish?"
"I want you to give us whatever we need to bring Janus to its knees. Help us expose the corruption and let the company go. It was never yours to begin with, and now the people you most trusted have betrayed you. Let it go-for your own sake."
"How could they?" Katherine whispered, sinking into the nearest chair. "Philip Westbrooke always treated me like his own, but now- I don't understand.," She buried her head in her hands. Ezra walked to her, taking her hands in his. "Let me help you."
"I can't just sell them out," Katherine insisted.
"They've already sold you out long ago."
Sighing, she looked into his green eyes for any trace of deceit. Finding none, she shook her head, "I- I can't. Not yet, not until-"
"You won't be able to find him." Ezra said, understanding what she wanted. "Not unless he wants to be found."
Sighing again, she pulled away from his grip. "Mr. Standish-"
"Ezra, I don't know what to do. Nothing makes sense anymore. I thought I knew what I was doing, I thought I knew who I am, who I could trust, but now- now it's all a mess."
"Trust me," Ezra took her hands again. "Trust me.," Looking into his eyes, Katherine nodded reluctantly, "I have nothing else to lose."
Friday, ATF Headquarters
Chris was not pleased. It had been two days since they had contact with Katherine Westbrooke. He had the secretaries call her at every available number, yet she was nowhere to be reached. It was almost as if she had dropped off the face of the planet. If he didn't know better, he'd say he was almost concerned for her welfare.
Idly scanning a note left for him, he looked up when Vin poked his head up in the office. "She's here to see ya."
Nodding, realizing immediately who "she," was, Chris said crisply, "send her in."
Standing outside his office, Katherine nodded to Vin as she stepped inside the office. Closing the door behind her, she turned to Chris.
"Do you mind telling me where you've been for the last two days, Miss Westbrooke?" he asked evenly.
"That's none of your business, Mr. Larabee. I agreed to help you in your investigation, not be at your beck and call," Katherine replied just as evenly. Then shaking her head slightly, she added, "I had to get away for awhile- I had to think."
Chris nodded slowly, "And now that you've thought things over, what have you decided? Change your mind about helping us?"
"No- no, I gave my word, but I need to know something. Where's Philip Westbrooke?"
Chris noted how she didn't use the term "father.," Picking up a pen, he clicked it before answering, "Now, that's none of your business."
"Do you know where he is?"
"I'm not at liberty to say."
"Do you have him in custody?"
Chris began to reply, "I'm not at lib-"
"Because if you don't, I have everything you need to take the bastard down," Katherine continued smoothly. "And." she continued, "everything you need to but Janus out of business- for good."
"Really?" Chris raised a disbelieving eyebrow. "And what do you want in exchange?"
"I find that hard to believe."
"I'm telling the truth. I don't want anything."
"Please, Miss Westbrooke, I wasn't born yesterday."
"Who knows then, peace- maybe even a little closure.,"
"All right, let's see what you've got."
Katherine grabbed her briefcase, pulling out a mountain of papers, and then a stack of floppy disks. "Everything you need is there. Names, dates, places, tax returns-everything."
Chris stared at the stack of paperwork piled on his desk. Looking at her, he suddenly grinned.
Tuesday, Janus Corporation Tower
Taking a deep breath, Katherine stepped into the conference room. She had called an emergency meeting last night, as Ezra had informed her of the imminent arrests to be made today. She told him she'd make it easier for them and have everyone gathered together in one place.
"Gentleman, I hope I haven't kept you waiting," she smiled brightly at the assembled shareholders as she stepped inside.
"Not at all Katherine, sit down," Philip Westbrooke replied, sitting at the head of the table. Katherine blanched slightly, not all together surprised her "late," father had decided to attend this meeting.
"You don't seem surprised to see me dearest," Philip smiled at her.
"Why would that be dad?" Katherine returned his smile.
"I am supposed to be dead," Philip laughed, as the other people in the room laughed as well.
"I've known you weren't dead for a bit now."
"And how could you have known that? It was carefully orchestrated."
"Oh, I have my ways."
"And you're not angry?"
"No, not at all."
"Well, then, I thought that this would be more of a shock for you, but seeing as how you're fine, let's get this meeting going. Now Katherine, I think it's only fair to tell you what's going on."
"Yes, I think that would be appropriate."
"Janus has found, well- more profitable ventures."
"Would those profitable ventures have anything to do with illegal guns being imported through our merchandise?
Philip chuckled again, "What did I tell you? She's clever this one! The brightest of all of my step-children."
Hiding her growing fury, Katherine smiled genially.
"So why the staged death?"
"I had no other choice. The FBI was getting too close, and they needed a distraction. I also needed to spend some time in Columbia with Senor Ramon Jaquando closing our latest deal."
"Five hundred thousand semi-automatic weapons, and all ready for immediate sale. They'll be shipped in next month."
"And how much are we being paid for this new investment?"
"Seventy-five million dollars."
"My, I think you're the clever one."
"I knew you'd think so! Katie, it's good to have you on board."
"Sorry, but I'm not on board dad. In fact, I don't want to be any part of this atrocity," Katherine replied, the controlled façade slipping. "In fact, I can't be apart of this company any longer.," She stood up to leave.
"Wait a minute Katie."
"I believe this meeting is through, good afternoon gentlemen."
"I'm afraid I can't let you leave," Philip said rising to grab her arm. "Reconsider, Katie."
"I've made my decision Philip. Let me go."
"I'm sorry to do this, but you've left me with no other choice," pulling out a small handgun from his coat pocket, he aimed it at her. "Come with me Katie.," The other board members shifted uncomfortably in their seats.
"Now, Philip, murdering your own daughter? That's taking it a bit far, don't you think?" Keith Pritchard, the senior vice-president stuttered nervously.
"Shut-up Pritchard," Philip bit out viciously. "She'll ruin everything if we let her live. Besides, she's not my daughter. Just some pathetic white-trash brat that came along with her whore of a mother."
Katherine flinched inwardly at the words, but her face remained impassive. "Is money really that important?" she asked him.
"Yes," Philip turned to her. "It is. Please, Katherine, don't pretend to be shocked. Money is just as important to you. It runs in your blood. Your mother was a hopeless social climber, I saw that same greed in you, but it was more ambitious and cold-blooded. Why do you think you were my successor? I saw your potential, your head for business. Pity you've chosen to be moral all of a sudden. "
Looking at the man who she had loved for fifteen years, the man who she thought loved her, Katherine was suddenly consumed with fury at his betrayal. Ignoring the gun pointed at her, she reached out and slapped her stepfather across the face. She lost any semblance of reasonable thought, lashing out at him, "You sick son of a bitch! How could you? Was it all a game to you? All those lessons on values and ethics and- and- it was all lies! You goddamn hypocrite, how can you stand to look at yourself?"
Bringing a hand to his now-red face, Philip looked at his stepdaughter with a mix of amusement and anger. "You little fool.," He backhanded her. Katherine would have fallen, if not for the death-grip he had on her arm. "You were so easy to manipulate. You did everything I expected you would. Going to the proper authorities, attempting to save the company."
Wiping away the trickle of blood from her split lip, Katherine smiled at him, her blue eyes cold. "Everything you expected?" she asked him, as the conference doors were flung open.
The seven ATF agents in full form, with Chris at the fore, burst in, "ATF! Get down!" he barked at the now terrified board members. Philip tightened his grip on Katherine. "You little bitch!" he snarled, pointing the gun at her head.
"Drop it," Chris demanded, glaring at Philip, as he and the other six agents aimed their weapons at him.
"No," Philip smirked. "I'm leaving this little conference room, and my darling daughter is coming with me."
"Drop the gun, Westbrooke," Chris ordered again, flicking a quick glance at Katherine. Immobile in Philip's grip, Katherine simply stood her face expressionless.
"You're not going to get out alive if you don't let her go," Vin said, scanning for an opening where he could hit Philip without injuring Katherine.
"Well, that's a shame, but I'm already dead. And so, is she," Philip smiled coldly, as he hurled Katherine to the floor, pulling the trigger. Simultaneously, Vin took his shot.
Ezra leaped over the conference table to where Katherine lay, gasping. Kneeling beside her, he asked, "Katherine, can you hear me?"
She nodded, and whispered harshly, "I'm bleeding, not deaf, Mr. Standish.," Ezra smiled, as Nathan nudged him aside to look at her injury.
"Call an ambulance." he ordered, while attempting to gently remove Katherine's jacket. He shook his head, as he saw the rapidly spreading crimson stain on her crème-colored silk shirt underneath. "Damn, she took it in the side. Ezra, put pressure on it," he said, handing the Southerner her jacket. Concern evident in his green eyes, Ezra followed Nathan's instructions.
"ETA, five minutes," JD said, clicking the cell-phone closed. Nathan nodded, as he moved over to where Chris stood. "He's dead." Chris said, staring down at the unmoving body of Philip Westbrooke. Checking the pulse to make sure, Nathan nodded.
Vin and Buck finished arresting the trembling board members and ushered them into the waiting arms of the FBI standing outside the conference room. Walking back inside, Vin asked, "How is she?"
"She's hit, but alive." Chris said, as the men stared at Ezra, propping Katherine up, while he applied pressure to her wound.
"Miss Westbrooke, I'm afraid that your lovely jacket and blouse are ruined beyond repair," Ezra said, attempting to keep her awake, as he saw her blue eyes flutter closed.
"I never much cared for this suit anyway," she sighed.
"That's okay, Ezra can take you shopping when you're feeling better," JD said brightly, squatting down beside them. Katherine smiled softly. "That would be nice."
"You're going to be fine," Chris said, as Buck waved the paramedics into the crowded conference room.
"Mr. Larabee, if I didn't know better, I'd say you were concerned," Katherine laughed, wincing at the effort, before sagging, unconscious against Ezra.
Denver General Hospital, Tuesday night
"So how is she?" Vin asked, lightly clapping his hand on Ezra's shoulder. Looking up at the sharpshooter, Ezra half-grinned, "she's out of surgery. She's going to be fine."
Vin smiled, as Ezra continued, "As usual Mr. Tanner that was impeccable timing.," Vin shrugged modestly, "I'm just glad to hear she's going to be okay."
"And Westbrooke?" Ezra asked, as Buck and JD filed into the hospital waiting room.
"Deader than a run over rattler," Buck replied, plopping down beside Ezra.
"For real, this time," JD added, grinning.
"I'm glad to see that you're all safe brothers," Josiah smiled, walking in with Nathan at his side.
"Getting out of here already?" JD laughed.
"They weren't going to release him until the morning, but Chris managed to convince the doc on duty to let him go tonight," Nathan replied, as the other ATF members laughed, knowing exactly how their fearless leader had accomplished that minor miracle.
"How's the young lady?" Josiah rumbled. "Nathan filled me in on the way down," he added, at the look of surprise from Ezra.
"She's going to be fine," Chris answered, joining the rest of his team.
"That's great," JD's youthful face lit up in an exuberant grin. "Ya gotta admit Chris, Katie turned out to be pretty helpful."
The older members of the team turned to look at the kid, "Katie?" Buck repeated. "When the heck did you start calling Miss Moneybags Westbrooke, Katie?"
"Since she asked me to," JD replied flatly. "And once you get to know her, she's a really nice lady."
"And when Mr. Dunne, have you been 'getting to know' Miss Westbrooke?" Ezra asked, feeling something akin to jealousy.
"It's not like what's running through Buck's perverted mind, Ez," JD replied, blushing hotly. "She called me over to invite me for lunch one of those days last week when we couldn't find her. To explain and apologize."
"And all that time we were looking for her, you had contact with her and didn't tell us?" Chris asked pointedly.
"She asked me not to Chris," JD replied, flushing even more.
"There was no harm done. Leave the boy alone," Josiah said. "Besides she paid me a visit for the same reasons."
"It seems Miss Westbrooke has been very eager to make amends." Ezra said, a soft smile forming on his lips. "It seems only fair that we attempt to do the same."
Chris nodded reluctantly. "So is she ready to see visitors?"
Ezra nodded, "We can go up right now."
Katherine lay on the bed, still groggy from the anesthesia, staring at the white ceiling above her head. She kept time with the steady beeps of the machines surrounding her. Willing herself to forget the day's events that ran fuzzily through her mind, she listened at the harsh whisper of someone outside her door.
"No! You cannot all go in there. In fact, none of you should be going in there at all. Visiting hours are over," an angry nurse's voice hissed.
"Look lady, we're ATF. Move.," Katherine could have sworn she heard the distinct voice of Chris Larabee.
"I don't care if you're blasted FBI, CIA, or GOD. Miss Westbrooke needs her rest. Unlike you idiot ATF agents who bounce around three seconds out of surgery, normal people need time to recuperate."
Katherine attempted to sit up, a sharp pain shooting up her side. Wincing, she reached for the call button and pushed it. The door flung open, with the nurse followed by the seven concerned ATF agents.
"Are you all right, Miss Westbrooke?" the nurse asked, checking her vitals.
"I'm fine." Katherine said softly. "I'd like some water please."
"Sure thing," the nurse smiled, before frowning severely at the agents who had filed into the room. "You can't come in here!"
"It's all right. Let them stay," Katherine said, raising her hand.
"I'll be back with your water then." the nurse said turning to leave, while shaking her head disapprovingly, shutting the door behind her.
The seven agents looked around the spacious room. Buck let out a low whistle. "Damn being rich has its perks. I don't think my apartment room is this big."
"I don't think our apartment is this big, Buck," JD murmured, also impressed.
"Gentlemen, if you're here to tell me how sorry you are that I'm not dead, save it. I'm really not up to it," Katherine said.
"Actually, we're here to thank you," Nathan smiled down at her, coming beside her bed.
"For what Mr. Jackson?" Katherine asked him.
"For being a big fat pain in the ass," Buck chuckled.
"I see. Your welcome," Katherine replied.
"For your help on the case," Chris said, coming up to stand beside Nathan."
"I should have helped a long time ago. If I had it could have saved Mr. Sanchez and Mr. Dunne from getting injured, to say the very least of what it could have done for Mr. Hastings."
"You couldn't have done anything more than you did," Ezra said gently.
"And we're grateful," Vin added as the nurse came back with a pitcher of water, setting it down besides the bed.
"Not any less grateful than I am to all of you," Katherine smiled softly. "Thank you."
"Here's your water honey," then nurse murmured, holding a cup with a straw up to Katherine's lips. Taking a small sip, Katherine sighed, leaning heavily against her pillows. "She's tired." the nurse said. "It's time all of you said good night."
Chris nodded, "Let's go. Get some rest Miss Westbrooke."
Katherine's eyes crinkled as she smiled, "It's Katie."
"Well then, sleep tight Katie," Buck said, grabbing JD's arm and tugging at him to leave.
"Night Katie," JD smiled as Nathan and Josiah waved. Vin and Chris turned to leave as well, as Vin murmured, "Sleep tight.," Chris looked questioningly at Ezra who stood by Katherine's bed. "Go on Mr. Larabee. I'll see you in the morning.," Understanding, Chris pointedly glared at the nurse who was frowning at Ezra. "I believe Nurse-," he paused to read her nametag, "Adams that Mr. Standish will be staying."
Wisely, Nurse Adams chose not to question Chris and nodding briskly, she left the room, as Chris smiled at his undercover agent before flicking the light switch by the door and quietly closing it behind him.
"You don't have to stay Mr. Standish," Katherine said looking up at the green-eyed agent in the dim light of her room.
"It's Ezra, and I want to stay Katie," he said, reaching down to gently brush a strand of hair out of her eyes. Pulling up a heavy armchair by her bed, he murmured, "The chairs are quite comfortable as well. Being rich does indeed have its perks." he said sinking into it wearily.
Katherine reached over to cover his hand laying on the side of her bed with her own. "Thank you Ezra. For everything."
"My pleasure Katie. My pleasure."
"When I get out of here, would you like to have dinner with me?"
Ezra chuckled in the darkness. "I thought you'd never ask."
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