"Definitely doesn't look like a robbery," one of the crime scene team officers
stated as he eyed all of Vin's belongings that had been found around the
area. Besides the keys, phone and wallet, they found his wristwatch and the
weapon he usually carried in the small of his back.
Buck and JD exchanged 'no-shit-Sherlock' expressions but remained silent.
Chris paced back and forth as he tried not to think of the alternative.
Another officer walked up with a plastic bag in his hand. "I found this near
where the wallet and phone were found. Don't know if it was his but it seemed
out of place. Too clean to have been there long." He placed the new bag with
the others and everyone saw it contained a white handkerchief, neatly folded
into a square.
"Don't recall Vin ever carrying a handkerchief," Josiah spoke idly as he
turned the plastic bag around to get a closer look.
"Anyone check his apartment?" one of the officers asked.
Buck dropped his shoulders and sighed heavily. "Of course we checked his
apartment. What do you take us for, a bunch of rookies?"
"Buck ..." Chris warned.
Buck clamped his mouth shut and lowered his gaze to the sidewalk.
"We'll take this stuff to the lab and run the usual checks. We'll call if
anything turns up," the leader of the team spoke up. He issued some final
orders to his men and the team readied themselves to leave.
The six men of the ATF team remained standing by their comrade's jeep. Five
stood uneasily as they looked at the sixth.
"What do you want to do now, Chris?" Josiah asked in low tones.
He looked up at his men, surprise on his face. "We look for him." The other
men exchanged glances that their leader read easily. "He's not dead!" His
eyes skittered about in front of him. "He's not!"
"Chris, we were talking before... you know who has the most to gain from
Vin not being around ?" Nathan quizzed.
Chris stared at the man as his mind raced. He wrinkled his brow. "Chassen?"
"Yeah. Without Vin's testimony next week, he'll walk."
"Even Chassen's not stupid enough to risk a murder now."
"Who knows what a desperate man will do to save his neck," Josiah put in.
"But, it's too obvious. It'll point right to him," Chris argued.
"So, he doesn't kill him... just holds him till it's too late. The judge
said the last time that he would grant no more continuances, no matter the
"All the more reason we dig in and we find him."
"But, Chris," Buck sighed.
Chris stared at his friend and tapped his own chest roughly. "I know it,
in here, that Vin is not dead Buck."
"I know." Buck understood the conviction his friend had because he'd had
that same conviction before, only to be crushed when he turned out to be
wrong. "I just want ..."
Chris cut him off with an icy stare that he softened a moment later. "I know
what you're trying to say, Buck."
"Where do you want to start, Chris?" Josiah asked, thinking that was probably
the way he should have phrased the question to begin with.
"We do this by-the-book. I don't want any chance of them throwing this out
because we didn't follow proper procedure. Let's get down to the office and
see where we stand."
The men headed for their cars and drove off to begin the search to save the
life of their friend. JD glanced at his watch as he climbed into the passenger's
side of Buck's truck. Ten twenty on Saturday night and Vin was scheduled
to appear a week from Monday. They had until then to find him. It seemed
like plenty of time and JD knew the team he was on was good but thinking
about the criminal they were dealing with, even he had some doubts.
******* ******* *******
The door opened again and the man entered quietly. He had only been gone
for ten minutes but it had seemed longer to Vin. His mind had spun out of
control as he waited for something to happen.
"Anything yet, Mr. Tanner?" the man asked as he leaned forward and gaped
mockingly into Vin's face. "Headache? Nausea?"
Vin narrowed his eyes and stared defiantly back at the man but said nothing.
"Well, maybe your next course will be more to your liking," he said as he
reached over and pulled the tube of the near empty bag out of Vin's arm and
recoiled the tubing up to the bag. He removed the bag and slipped it into
his pocket then reached into another pocket and pulled out another bag. "I
assure you, this one is bound to get a reaction," he quipped as he arranged
the fresh bag on the pole and readied the tube to be attached to the needle
in Vin's arm.
Vin kept his expression neutral, trying not to let on that the man was getting
He smiled as he pressed the tube into place and Vin could swear he felt the
fluid flowing into him. The man's deranged cackling began again as he reached
up to a point at the bottom of the bag. "Let's let this one go a little slower,
shall we? Don't want the fun over too soon." He twisted a small knob on the
tube which regulated the flow then spun on his heels and left abruptly, laughing
as he did.
Vin squeezed his hands into tight fists as he once again tried to pull free
from the restraints. His stomach was clenched in a knot and he wasn't sure
if it was his own doing or something caused by the drug flowing into him.
"Oh god " he muttered, "just get it over with."
******* ******* *******
"I want all Chassen's files pulled. I want all the information we have on
all known associates and all holdings. We've got to find something that'll
lead us to Vin," Chris commanded his team as they entered the darkened offices.
It took several minutes for the florescent lights to stop flickering and
supply a steady light source. The six men began pulling files and accessing
computers gathering all the information they could, hoping they could find
something and find it in time.
******* ******* *******
The door slammed shut and Vin jerked his head up, wincing at the sudden movement
of the stiff muscles. The man stood at the door with that same smile pasted
on his face. He had come in earlier, what was probably hours ago really,
and removed the last bag, smiling at him the whole time he was in the room.
He took the bag and left without saying a word. Now, he was back.
"How're you feeling today, Mr. Tanner?"
"Well, I gotta pee."
The man extended his arm. "Be my guest."
Vin twisted his lip to the man. "Reckon I'll wait."
The man eyed him for a moment then took the few steps forward to stand beside
him. "I know what you're thinking. You're thinking there was nothing in those
bags. That we're just playing with you, aren't you, Mr. Tanner?"
"It occurred to me."
The man grinned down at Vin. "Well, actually, yes, we are playing with you
but not the kind of game you think." The man turned to amble around the room,
his eyes to the ceiling, his finger tips tapping together. "This is a game
called ..." he spoke slowly then turned abruptly to face Vin, "lab rat."
Vin wrinkled his brow.
"Or, guinea pig, if you prefer." He stepped back up beside Vin. "You see,
the substances we have been giving you are not exactly approved by the FDA."
He turned to look at the pole beside the chair and raised his hand to it,
putting his thumb and finger on either side and sliding them down it
contemplatively. "In fact, I doubt any of the respectable people at the FDA
have even heard of what we're giving you." He looked back at Vin. "Now, the
not-so-respectable people, well " he shrugged.
Vin shifted uncomfortably in the chair, definitely not liking where this
Once again, the man slid his hand into his pocket and pulled out a small
plastic IV bag which he hung on the hook on the pole. "The two drugs you
were given have now had twelve hours to..." he paused and looked Vin in the
eye. "Yes, you have been here twelve hours," he confirmed and turned back
to the bag. "Those drugs have attached themselves where they are supposed
to be and this one ...well... this one is the catalyst. It charges up the
other two and makes them work." He glanced back to gauge Vin's expression.
"Makes them do what?...you're wondering. Could be anything. Could do anything
to you or make you do anything. Mind alteration is big business these days,"
he rambled as he began unwinding the tubing. He extended the tube and began
preparing it to be attached to Vin's arm.
Vin jerked yet again on the straps trying to get free, hoping this time they
would give but they didn't budge.
"You are persistent if nothing else, Mr. Tanner," the man spoke without even
looking at Vin. He casually slid the tubing into place in the needle in Vin's
arm and then stepped back and faced Vin. "Let the games begin."
Vin took a deep breath as he watched the fluid level in the bag drop slowly.
"It ain't too late. You can stop this and get off scot-free. I won't tell."
Vin was bluffing. There was no way he would let this man get away with what
he was doing.
"Desperate pleas from a desperate man. I thought you were above that."
Vin turned his eyes on the man, hoping his gaze was hard, menacing, but in
his heart knowing his fear was showing through.
Exasperated, the man shifted his eyes briefly to the ceiling and let out
his breath loudly. "I can see the suspense is getting to you," he began and
smiled evilly. "Good," he added as he looked back at Vin and folded his arms
across his chest. "Not a lot of people have been given this combination of
drugs before so what will happen may be a surprise even to me but surprises
are the spice of life so that does give you something to look forward to,
or more to the point," he smiled again, "gives me something to look forward
Vin clenched his jaw tight and squeezed his eyes shut trying to block out
the man's taunting words. Professional arms dealers and gun toting drug pushers
he could handle but this psychological torture was beyond him. He took a
deep breath as his head began to pound. He opened his eyes and saw the man
was still talking but the words that were registering in his head weren't
making any sense. He shook his head hoping to clear whatever was disrupting
things but it didn't help. Suddenly, his own thoughts were jumbled, the words
not making any sense and finally, no words would come at all. He tried to
get his mind to focus, to recall even his own name. He stared at the man
who started in with his cackling laugh that came through loud and clear.
Vin's mind swam and he felt like his whole body was being swirled around
haphazardly. He tried to focus on the man as he turned to leave, the maniacal
laugh echoing through the room even after he was gone.
Oh god! What was happening?
******* ******* *******
"Report just came in from the lab," Nathan entered waving a folder at his
side. They rest of the team followed him into the conference room where he
had taken the folder to spread its contents over the surface of the large
table located there. They all grabbed a sheet of paper to read the findings.
"Vin's gun had no usable prints but his on it,' Buck read.
"Same with his watch," JD added, reading from the report he had grabbed.
"That handkerchief had traces of ether on it," Josiah read from the report
in his hand.
"Ether?" several voices questioned.
"That must have been the method of abduction," Ezra stated. "Render him
unconscious and he provides no opposition."
"They wouldn't have bothered with that if they had meant to kill him," Buck
added. "Just as easy to kill him and cart the dead body away." Buck glanced
at Chris after he finished, knowing that what he had just said was blunt.
Chris, however, seemed to be mulling over Buck's words. He had surprised
the team with his detachment on the case. After his initial emotional display
at the scene, he had been completely professional ...on the outside, anyway.
"I think you're right, Buck. They wouldn't have bothered with that if their
intent was to kill him. They would have done it right there. Hell, a drive-by
shooting in that neighborhood is run-of-the- mill." Chris was nodding his
head, agreeing with himself.
"Hey, hey, hey," JD was waving his hand at the others, getting their attention.
"There's another set of prints on Vin's cell phone," he said, reading from
yet another report. "They've been identified as a Richard Parker, a.k.a.
Richard Perkins, a.k.a. Parker Perkins," he continued reading.
"Wait a second...Parker Perkins...I know that name," Nathan said as he squeezed
his eyes shut, trying to bring forth the picture in his mind of where he
knew the name from. "I got it!" He jumped up suddenly and left the room.
The others had just a moment to exchange confused glances before he returned
with another folder. He flipped it open and sifted through several sheets
of paper before he found what he was looking for. "Parker Perkins, one of
Chassen's clan." He skimmed over the man's rap sheet. "Been suspected of
everything under the sun but no convictions. There's a picture of him here,"
Nathan finished as he pulled a photograph out of the folder. The picture
made the round of the table as each man looked at it then passed it on.
"So, now we have a place to start. I want all the information we can get
on this man." The team was silent as they left the conference room to gather
the information that Chris had just demanded.
******* ******* *******
The lonely stretch of highway along the remote part of Texas saw few cars
during the day and even fewer at night. There was nothing around for miles
and no witnesses to see when a late model sedan slowed along the road. A
door was opened up and a body pushed out to tumble along the shoulder until
it came to rest on the rough surface as the car accelerated out of sight.
******* ******* *******
They found an address on the man they were searching for but when they checked
it out, it was, as they suspected it would be, vacant. They were back at
Chris would not be deterred and his team fed off of his determination. Vin
was alive and they would find him.