Conflicting Details

by Kris

ATF Virtual Season

Disclaimer: Mog created of the ATF universe, but the seven men and a couple of others do not belong to me. I just use them and provide them with a little extra fun.

Buck bounced off the wall hard with the force of the hit. The hurt in his eyes compounded tenfold when he heard, "Damm you, Buck," come from Chris Larabee's mouth in conjunction with another forceful blow from Chris's fist.

As Buck slid to the floor, he looked up at Chris and asked, "What are you damming me for this time, pard?"

"You were in charge, Buck, you put Vin in the most dangerous spot. Put him there on purpose." Chris forced the words through clenched teeth.

"That's a lie..."

"Shut-up Buck," Chris pulled his hand back for another blow aimed at Buck's mouth so he didn't have to listen to another lie.

One Hour Earlier, 11:45am

The ambulance EMT's rolled the gurney thorough the emergency room doors hurriedly, sensing the urgency of the man running along side them. The corridor cleared immediately as the head nurse recognized Chris Larabee, team leader of Colorado's finest ATF team. All the members of his team were regular repeat visitors. She pointed the EMTs to the first available room, but continued to keep the corridor clear waiting for the others, and, as if on cue, five men rushed in on the footsteps of the EMTs.

She prevented them from following their fallen partner into the room. "There's not enough room for all of you, and I'm sure you all want the medical team to fit in there and do their work. Mr. Larabee is in there now, and I'll get you up-dates."

Buck, Ezra and Josiah still had their vests on, all had their ATF jackets on, they had just jumped into the police van and took off for the hospital. Buck slumped into the chair and put his head into his hands. JD sat next to him, not knowing exactly how to help him.

Buck looked up at the others, candor etched into his face, "Chris is gonna kill me. I don't even know what went wrong." He let his head fall once more into the cradle of his hands.

JD stayed by Buck, Nathan, Josiah and Ezra moved a bit away from them, then Ezra leaned closer, "Until we review the tapes, no one can say....Ah, here's the nurse," Ezra said the last loud enough for Buck and JD to hear. All heads turned to face her.

"The bullet went straight through, nicked the heart, left lung and the pancreas." Her face became even more grave, "It appears, gentlemen, that it was an armor piercing bullet. I don't know what to say about Vin's chances, first he has to live through the surgery, then, if he can hang on, the next forty-eight after that will tell." All their faces fell at her news, "You fellas always tell me you rather have the truth, well, this is the real truth. This isn't what I'd normally say."

Ezra stepped forward, pale with the news of Vin, but he tried to infuse his voice with life, "Thank you Helen. You are correct, no matter how difficult, we'd prefer the truth. Thank for being brave enough to tell it." She gave him a sad smile and returned to the operating room.

Ezra walked over to the doors of the operating room and looked through the glass, people working skillfully, Chris scowling, all was being done that could be done. He turned back to his partners and joined them around Buck.

Buck stood up and paced, "I gotta write that report, Vin's gonna be in there for hours, Chris ain't gonna want to see me, he's gonna kill me, Chris is gonna kill me......" Buck stopped rambling and looked straight at JD, "I hafta get it down fresh, you call me if you hear anything....anything, I mean it," Buck kept eye contact with JD until he nodded, then Buck picked up his hat and headed toward the door.

Buck left the hospital, he knew Vin would be in surgery for possibly several hours, and five were there with him. He just wanted to write the damm report while all the events were fresh in his head. He knew he'd catch hell for it, so he wanted as much of it down on paper ASAP. He grabbed a cab and headed for the office.

Chris came out of the scrub room and pulled off the sterile gown he had been forced to wear. Chris had been allowed to stand back and watch the operation. The hospital staff had long since given up on keeping the team separated, instead worked out a compromise, where one would be allowed to watch. Thereby, only one would be in the operating room instead of six.

Chris looked around and growled, "Where's Buck?"

"To complete the report on this fiasco," Ezra supplied the answer, then asked a question of his own, "How's Vin?" Four pairs of eyes were glued to Chris, waiting for the answer.

"Bullet hit his lung and heart, both are bleeding, they don't know if he's gonna make it." Chris's voice cracked on the last words. He ran his fingers through his hair, closing his eyes. When he opened them, the vicious look in them did not bode well for someone. "How long ago did he leave?"

JD looked up at Chris and told him, "He just left. He's feeling awful bout this."

"Damm well should." Chris punched the emergency door button, but when he saw another ambulance arrive, he used the side door, slamming it as he left.

Nathan saw JD's expression and tried to calm him, "He's real upset."

"He looked as though he intended to kill Buck." JD's eyes were opened wide in fear.

Ezra raised his brows questionably at Josiah, who nodded in the affirmative. Ezra stood up as he said, "We'll just run down and make sure no one else ends up in the hospital."

Josiah stood also, "Call us if you get any word. Any." He looked Nathan in the eyes, then JD. Both men nodded, and watch forlornly as two more of the team exited. JD got up and began to pace.

ATF Headquarters, 12:46pm

Buck held his arm out, he wasn't hitting back, but he was trying to avoid further blows. Chris ducked underneath it, and hit him square in the gut. Buck's oomph coincided with his hit on the floor.

Chris shouted at him, "You've been jealous ever since Vin got here. But I never thought you'd go so low as to deliberately put him in mortal danger. You didn't even stay at the hospital." Chris grabbed him by the shirt and yanked him up off the floor only to throw him against the wall again.

You're wrong, Chris..." Buck tried to make his voice forceful, but the pain from his ribs kept his voice raspy. ".....I care about Vin, and I was happy he came along, he got you out of the hellhole your mind had taken up residence in. Vin was in no more danger than any of us." Buck sagged even further onto the floor. His face tilted upward at Chris, the hurt evident in his eyes, "I don't know how you could even think that."

"I don't think it. I know it." Chris picked up Buck again, his right arm rearing back to inflict another blow, when Ezra and Josiah got off the elevator. The shocked look from both men's faces caused Chris to just throw Buck down and then he retreated to his office, slamming the door with such force the surrounding walls shook.

Josiah immediately crouched at Buck's head, holding it up off the floor. He asked softly, "Where do you hurt, my friend?"

Buck tried to laugh, "Where don't I?" But the tears in his eyes belied that attempt. Buck turned his head and searched out Ezra, he'd felt closer to Ezra since that time they went to that antique store and he needed Ezra to understand, "I'm not jealous of Vin, I didn't set him up. Oh god, I really thought I'd placed everyone as safely as possible.....Ez, you gotta believe me.....please."

Ezra nodded his head at Buck, not letting anything of what he was thinking register on his face. That Chris believed that of Buck...Ezra's eyes met Josiah's and his face mirrored Ezra's thoughts. Ezra looked back down at Buck and connected with his eyes. They had never looked more serious than they did right now, "We know that Buck, don't doubt that."

Josiah added, "Chris will too, as soon as he calms down and begins thinking rationally again."

Josiah and Ezra helped Buck up and into the lounge across the hall, away from any possible prying eyes. The amount of pain Buck was experiencing had Josiah thinking that he'd probably busted a few ribs. He was about to suggest that they head to the hospital when all their beepers went off simultaneously, the message......"He's dead."

Hospital Emergency Area, 1:00pm

Nathan couldn't believe JD. He had walked up behind him just as Vin's heart monitor flatlined and he rushed out of the room dialing the collective emergency number. He had inputted the-he's dead-message, as Nathan could plainly read on his beeper, but JD hadn't even waited to see what was actually happening. The plug had pulled out from the machine, as the nurse replugged it, Vin's heart beat was as strong as ever. Nathan backed out of the room relieved and mad at the same time. He looked around and couldn't locate JD. Nathan tried to dial out on his phone, but JD was still tied into the collective number and Nathan couldn't get out. "Shit," Nathan said aloud, Chris was probably dying, as were the others, and for naught. "JD!," Nathan yelled as he left the waiting room. He checked the restroom and the cafeteria and was about to head to out the parking lot when he heard sniffles by the stairwell and headed straight for them.

JD looked up as he heard Nathan approach and was shocked at the lack of sadness on Nathan's face. He was about to speak, but Nathan beat him to it.

"Damm, JD, what were you thinking? Your training, right out the door. Did you double check your facts?, oh hell no. Vin's not dead. But you've caused a panic and if any of'em get here in one piece, you're damm lucky. Now will you release the phone so I can call 'em." Nathan was bull mad and JD's glazed look didn't register till he saw that JD hadn't moved.

JD moved his head a bit and repeated the only words he'd heard, Not dead?"

Nathan's expression softened and he crouched down to JD's level. He placed a hand on his back as he repeated for JD, "Yeah, Vin's not dead." Tears streamed down JD's face and Nathan knew that he'd have to scold JD again later, but now wasn't the time. Still in the softer voice, Nathan suggested to JD, "Let's send that message out." JD nodded, but handed his phone to Nathan.

+ + + + + + +

Ezra was driving the police van as Josiah kept Buck comfortable in the back. They were almost to the hospital when their beepers went off again and the new message appeared.

"Thank the lord," Josiah proclaimed aloud. The relief felt by Ezra and Buck was tangible as they continued on to the hospital with lighter hearts.

They arrived on the heels of Chris, who stormed in as a bear with a broken tooth. He growled a yell for the head nurse. She was unavailable but the Admitting Nurse responded quickly to him as one would to a drill sergeant.

"Yes, sir?"

"Where's Vin? Tell me now." Chris looked right past her, the worry paramount in his voice and on his face.

Helen, the head nurse exited the operating room and answered the question. "He's still in surgery, the plug came out of the monitor, and the young one reacted before checking, but all is proceeding well. Better than can be expected, actually. He has a strong will to live." She ushered him in, so he could see for himself.

The doors closed behind Chris, just as the emergency room doors automatically opened to Ezra and Josiah as they brought in Buck. The admitting nurse took one look at Buck and hurriedly indicated the nearest examining room. She motioned for the nearest doctor to follow her in.

Nathan and JD had heard Chris arrive and rushed out to meet him, instead they saw Buck arrive with Ezra and Josiah, in need of medical aid. JD got an awful look on his face as he ran to the room he'd seen Buck disappear into.

Nathan wasn't sure who to check on first but hurried after JD.


The doctor wrapped Buck's ribs and secured the velcro brace to hold his shoulders back for his broken collar bone. The doctor gave Josiah the prescription for pain medication on his way out. Josiah and Ezra helped Buck out to the waiting room to join JD and Nathan.

JD jumped up as he saw Buck and approached him cautiously. "Geez, what happened Buck? Did ya get hit by a truck?"

"Felt like it."

JD looked questionably at Ezra and Josiah, hoping for a better answer. Josiah explained, "Buck got in the way of Chris's anger." JD scrunched up his face in continued puzzlement. Nathan's eyes widened as he understood what Josiah was implying.

Josiah felt weary to his bones, he feared this could divide the team. It was obvious to him that Ezra had instinctively comprehended this also. They needed to find out what happened first.

Josiah was right, Ezra was worried indeed, he feared that this tore at the very fabric of this group. And it was paramount to him this group stay together, for Ezra was beginning to suspect that he had finally found his niche and a family he could belong to. His thoughts hesitated at the word family, afraid that if he really used the word, it would all dissolve in smoke.

+ + + + + + +

The next three hours proved to be extremely nerve-wracking. Chris never left the operating room, so the others didn't get an opportunity to be in there with Vin. The nurse only came out once to let them know that it was proceeding as expected, "The longer he keeps breathing, the better his chances."

JD, on the other hand, was afraid that Chris would come out and attack Buck again. Just the thought of one of his heroes hitting the friend he loved like a brother could bring tears to his eyes.

Josiah had Buck's prescription filled and Nathan was continually checking on his condition. Buck wished he could be left alone, but knew that with this set of friends, that was impossible. He felt more pain in Chris's doubt of his integrity than in the pain of the busted ribs.

Ezra figured that he himself had drained two urns-full of coffee, and Josiah was proposing yet another coffee run. He hadn't been able to sit still the entire time and yet, he was thinking of getting an even stronger brew.

All thoughts were shelved as the surgeon, doctors and nurses exited the operating room. Chris emerged ashen faced, as he said to the room at large, "He made it through the surgery. Now all we can do is wait." Chris ran his hand up and down his face as if trying to rub away the fear he experienced at seeing Vin's bleeding heart. He looked about the room and his eyes hardened as they reached Buck.

Buck was laying across several chairs with his head in JD's lap. JD didn't flinch as Chris's eyes rested on him and his stare hardened. 'He wasn't gonna choose, no one could make him,' JD thought to himself as he returned Chris's look.

No words were exchanged, but Josiah was afraid that Chris had drawn an invisible line and that this breech could be hard to heal.

The doors opened behind Chris where nurses and orderlies emerged wheeling Vin. Chris followed as Helen rushed over to the elevator and keyed it and locked it open. The gurney with Vin entered first along with all the tubes and fluid bags needed and an additional three staff to move Vin to ICU. As the elevator began closing, Chris indicated floor five with his hand.

JD rousted Buck and with Ezra's help got Buck moving and they all proceeded to the fifth floor with the next available elevator.


Ezra knew that Chris wouldn't be leaving Vin's side until he was out of danger. He'd made it through the long operation, but the next forty eight hours would be more determining. Ezra went in search of the head nurse, as Chris had been less than his communicative self. They all needed to know Vin's real chances. He headed back downstairs.

He located Helen, the day shift head nurse at the admitting desk. He waited patiently for her to finish, he made eye contact as she was about to depart. She picked up a different chart and walked over to the waiting ATF agent.

"Mr. Standish...," she began.

"Ezra, please," Ezra used his most winning smile.

Helen returned the smile, "Ezra. Your partner made it through a very difficult operation, his own desire to survive made the difference. We really won't know for forty eight hours, but after seventy-two, without complications, we all will be able to breathe easier." She thought she caught distress in his eyes, but in the time it took to blink the look was gone.

"I appreciate your honesty, Helen. My will remain on hand throughout it all."

Helen nodded her head, all the permanent staff were well aware of the vigilant efforts that Team Seven put into all their wounded members. Ezra patted her arm, then gave it a grateful squeeze as he turned to leave.

A bit hesitantly, Helen said, "Ezra?"

Ezra turned back with a question in his eyes. "Yes Helen?"

She leaned closer and lowered her voice as she divulged, "When Mr. Larabee first talked with the doctors, they all believed that the shot entered the heart first, through the front. During the operation, the surgeon discovered that the heart was damaged last. The bullet entered through the back, his vest deflected the bullet enough so that it missed hitting a bone. It traveled straight through instead of the internal implosion it was designed to do. I believe that Mr. Larabee is still under the original impression. The surgeon never spoke of it to him, but it is mentioned on his chart.

A dozen implications ran through Ezra's mind in the second before he answered. "Thank you Helen, this is extremely important. I'm asking you not to repeat this to anyone else. This information will be instrumental in our investigation."

Helen smiled as she agreed to do as Ezra asked.

+ + + + + + +

Ezra entered the nurse's lounge on the ICU floor to find all but Chris there. The nurse's offered it to the team when they figured it was the only way to keep them out of their way.

Ezra made eye contact with Josiah and moved his head to the left with the slightest of movements. Josiah stood and moved over to the coffee pot.

Ezra poured himself another cup of coffee as he whispered to Josiah, "We need to retrieve the mission tape, before the evidence trail is harder to track."

Josiah didn't question Ezra on a thing, he gave him a quick nod and rejoined the group. "JD, you need to get Buck home. Stay with him." JD didn't miss the command that was evident in Josiah's tone. He nodded. Josiah looked at Nathan. "Just make sure that Chris doesn't keel over with exhaustion. I know he won't leave, just get him to rest. Ezra and I are gonna get Buck's report started."

Understanding eyes followed them as they left the lounge.

Warehouse District, 5:30pm

The surveillance van was where they had left it. It had been JD's domain throughout the bust and subsequently, it was his responsibility to get it back to headquarters. Ezra noted right off that the lock had been tampered with. The scratch marks were hardly discernible, but Ezra's eye for detail rarely missed the small things. He motioned a silent shush at his lips as he indicated the marks on the van lock. Josiah drew his gun and aimed right over Ezra's shoulder as he open the doors, slowly and cautiously.

Nothing looked amiss from the ground view. They both stepped up into the van and closed the door behind them. Josiah sat at the video-cam recorder and ejected the tape. They put it the player and watched as the mornings events unfolded. As Josiah was about to re-view the tape, Ezra stilled him with a hand movement and leaned over the recording table and reached behind to an unnoticed area and fiddled a moment then withdrew a second tape.

"Let's see if JD's second 'insurance' recording matches what we've just watched." Ezra smiled at Josiah's expression. He obviously hadn't known of JD's habit of recording a second tape. "Mr. Dunne hated explaining to our leader that the equipment had malfunctioned and he was unable to produce the tape of that McPhillips bust. Ever since, he has recorded a second copy."

While Ezra had been speaking, Josiah put in the second tape and then hit the play button. The tape almost seemed the same, but it became obvious that several parts had been deleted from the first tape viewed.

"Bless JD," Josiah said aloud as he popped out the tape and put it into his inner pocket. Josiah bent over and retrieved the ignition key and tossed it to Ezra. "Let's take both these vehicles back to the office, small possibility we could get some prints from this one."

Ezra's skepticism was blatantly written on his face at that chance, but smiled at Josiah as he caught the key. "Lead on, Mr. Sanchez."

+ + + + + + +

As they were stuck in early evening traffic, Ezra pulled out his cellphone and dialed Nathan's number. At Nathan's pick-up he asked, "How's Mr. Tanner?"

"No change, but for right now, that's a good thing." Some of the mornings stress was missing from his voice.

Ezra paused a moment, took a breath and said, "Nathan, are you alone?"


"The raid and bust tape has been tampered with....," he paused again at Nathan's in-drawn breath. "...But thanks to our Mr. Dunne's diligence, we have a back up copy. No one must know of this."

"Beneficial help?" Nathan had to ask.

"Yes, it collaborates what the head nurse told me, Vin was shot from behind."

Nathan sucked in his breath again, as the implications hit him. "Shit."

"Nathan, till we get the whole story, don't tell Chris just yet. This may clear Buck, and Chris isn't thinking clearly right now."

Nathan realized how serious Ezra was by the usage of first names. "Chris is in with Vin, and no one is getting him outta there. He won't miss me."

"You need to stay with Buck, you're an impeachable witness. We first have to establish that Buck was unable to tamper with it, then proceed from there. We need young Mr. Dunne to assist us with electronics."

Nathan was already on the move, "I'm on my way as we speak." Nathan broke the connection as hailed a cab out front of the hospital.


JD had finally got Buck down with a couple of pain pills into his bloodstream. He had just flipped the switch on the coffee maker when the phone rang. He ran out of the kitchen and leapt over the couch and got it on the second ring. "Yeah?"

"Mr. Dunne, you sound winded?"

"Ez,...I just got Buck down, and let me tell you, that ain't easy." JD said into the mouthpiece as he walked the phone onto the patio and drew the glass door closed.

Ezra smiled at JD's agitation, he now sounded just like Buck. Into the mouthpiece he said, "We need your services down here at the office. Mr. Jackson is on his way to relieve you."

"Ahh, I hate to leave Buck."

"This is for his welfare."

Ezra's tone persuaded JD more than his words. "I'll head out as soon as Nathan gets here."

"Outstanding." Ezra figured the line wasn't tapped, but he had learned early, hedge your bets. He pulled into the parking garage and checked in the vehicle. He tagged it 'under investigation'. He kept the keys, but readied the locks so he could easily ascertain if they're tampered with.

As he exited the elevator, Josiah was already at Buck's desk. He was rummaging through it, mumbling to himself.

"You're hoping to find...?" Ezra asked as he joined him.

"A copy of the raid lay-out. His original could be here too, we don't know how long he was here before Chris joined him."

That gave Ezra an idea and he began looking under the desks throughout the office. He found the plan under the water cooler. They laid open the plans, and both men were surprised at how neat and concise they were.

"This appears very well laid out. Mr. Larabee is wrong, even if Vin had been shot from the front, it wasn't out of negligence on Buck's part. The plans alone should clear him."

Josiah turned them over and exhaled a sigh of relief. "It has Chris's sign off and time stamp. No one will be able to pass off other plans as the original. I believe we lucked out in having Chris so upset,..." Josiah smiled at Ezra's puzzlement, "....It caused the plans to be strune about and if someone did attempt to steal them, they only found his copy." As Josiah still had been unable to find Buck's copy all the while.

While they waited for JD they made a copy of the tampered tape for use until they could get it fingerprint dusted.

ATF Headquarters, 9:15pm

JD worked on the tape for several hours. He kept calling Ezra and Josiah in to share with them each discrepancy. His final call was one of frustration, pointing to a blur spot on the freeze frame, he said, "with this equipment, I can't get it any better than it is. But I know that we could see who this was, if we just had a more sophisticated piece of equipment." JD looked expectantly over at Josiah and Ezra.

The look on their faces told JD that their thoughts mirrored his, Chris's personal set-up at the ranch.

"Mr. Larabee does have excellent equipment and it would probably far surpass our requirements," Ezra replied in favor of JD's unspoken request.

Josiah felt compelled to be the voice of reason, "Chris probably wouldn't be to keen on using his stuff without his being there." Josiah could see the wheels turning in Ezra's head.

"We can show him that he's wrong about Buck, we can't let this split us." JD used his most persuasive beguiling look.

"Yeah, let's go," Josiah stood up and dangled the keys to Chris's place.

+ + + + + + +

"Hey Ezra, look at this," JD yelled out to Ezra in the kitchen.

"Coming Mr. Dunne," Ezra smiled to himself as he carried the mugs of freshly brewed coffee. He had already passed on the news that the lab had been unable to get any prints off the tape, so JD had been unusually dutiful since they had arrived at Chris's. He handed one mug of coffee to Josiah and leaned in close to JD as he said, "Okay, dazzle me."

"We have a man up on that crossbeam and he is definitely holding a rifle and it's aimed directly at Vin." JD let that sink in for a second, "This is the best one, but I still can't get it clear enough for the program to fill it in."

Ezra put his coffee down, "Let me try something JD." He sat in the seat that JD vacated, stretched his fingers and then let them fly across the keyboard. He contacted his computer via modem and began networking with it. He accessed an experimental program that Frolicke sent him. He altered JD's work through it on the screen and the image began to come in clearer frame by frame.

"Oh geez, that's an FBI jacket," JD jumped up as he said it aloud.

Josiah's look of disappointed matched his tone, "I was afraid of this, it was the only way this could make sense.

Ezra's fingers kept up their fast pace as he augmented the program to bring the face into focus. He highlighted the face and the screen flickered and the face became clearer and sharper until the face was recognizable.

"My lord, that's Assistant Director Mullins," Ezra couldn't conceal his surprise.

"What's he even doing there?" Josiah asked, more to himself.

"Shootin' Vin," JD stated the obvious.

"Actually I meant, on the line, as part of the bust. AD's rarely go out on a raid and certainly not on the front line." Josiah pondered aloud.

"We need to research him thoroughly. We need to talk with Buck, find out if he is even aware that Mullins was there....." Ezra paused, "...We need to talk with Vin." Ezra's voice lowered saying Vin's name.

Josiah took out his cellphone and called Chris, "How's Vin?"

FBI Building, Downtown Denver, 11:00pm

Scared fingers rapidly dialed a number, "Someone's accessed your files."

"Block it," Mullins yelled into the phone.

"The only way I could do that was unplugging it all from the wall."

"Fine, how much did they get?"

"Hard to tell," not wanting his boss to explode, he didn't share that all the files had been accessed. "I could back-trace it to Denver, the rest was scrambled."

Mullins wasn't going to let Tanner or his stupid team ruin a good thing, "Take out Tanner, he's still in the hospital. We also need to discredit the agent in charge, get an internal investigation going."

"Larabee?" the voice held much fear at the mention of his name.

"No, it was Wilmington's assignment. Take care of it." The line went dead.


Hospital, next morning, 5:45am

Josiah entered the ICU quietly, but not quiet enough to avoid waking Chris. Chris rubbed the sleep out of his eyes, then immediately turned his head to check Vin's monitors. "Resting quietly," Chris wasn't sure he he'd said that aloud, but apparently so at Josiah's answering nod.

Josiah added, "Nurses said he slept better than you."

Chris shrugged his shoulders as if to say, better him than me. Chris shifted in his chair as he turned to look at Josiah directly, "You're here early."

"Hoping I could spell you, after we talk a bit."

Chris was already shaking his head as he said roughly, "Don't wanna talk about Buck."

Josiah kept eye contact with Chris, "Fine. There's still a coupla things you should know." Chris shook his head with a glare, but Josiah continued on with a flat statement. "Operations tape was tampered with." He stood back waiting for Chris's reaction.

Chris's head came up sharply as his eyes narrowed dangerously, " so?" Chris's look turned suspicious and added, "How do ya know?" He couldn't be sure that Josiah wasn't just trying to defend Buck.

"After the McPhillips case," Chris nodded his head as he recognized the reference, "JD never wanted to get caught out again, so he makes a back-up tape. Only Buck and Ezra knew this. Last night Ezra and I compared tapes and found several discrepancies." But before Josiah could elaborate, the lights flickered and Vin's equipment staring beeping.

Chris was up like a shot checking for Vin's pulse as Josiah rushed out the door in search of a doctor. He was nearly flattened by the ICU team responding to the crisis in Vin's room.

Josiah waited outside the room until the doctor exited, he was relieved at the doctor's expression, Vin was still alive. Josiah went back into the room, finding Chris right next to Vin's bed. Chris had one hand covering his face, fighting the tears that threatened to fall.

Josiah placed his arm around Chris's shoulders and walked him on over to the chairs. With only a little push he had Chris sitting. Josiah gently rubbed Chris's shoulders, willing him to relax. When he felt some of the tension drain, he said lowly, "Lean back in the chair and rest. I'll stay and keep watch on Vin."

An emotionally drained Chris nodded and propped his feet up and closed his eyes. Josiah kept watch of both.

Buck and JD's Apt. 6:30am

Nathan awoke at the sound of the shower. He shook his head, trying to gauge where he was. A quick sweep of the surroundings abruptly reminded him where he was. JD's and Buck's. The grimace on his face quickly disappeared though, as he remembered the reason he was there. He went into Buck's room and was surprised to find him awake.

"In pain, Buck?" Nathan asked him.

"Ah some, but nothing too bad.......Nathan, I keep replaying yesterday, and I can't find my goof." Buck seemed unusually pensive to Nathan.

Nathan sat on the edge of Buck's bed, "Buck, you didn't, last night Josiah and Ezra with JD's help proved that, beyond a shadow of a doubt," Buck whole demeanor shifted with that news, "But what they discovered won't leave you feelin any better."

Buck looked at Nathan with earnest puzzlement. Nathan filled him in on all the discoveries the three of them had made, and the news didn't sit well with Buck. Nathan wasn't finished yet, "Buck, I keep going over the information and I draw the same conclusion each time. You're not in the clear yet, nor are you safe." Nathan held up a hand as Buck was about to interrupt. "Mullins is gonna try to implicate, we need to keep you out of view and safe. We're going out to Chris's ranch."

"Good idea, " JD added as he entered the room dressed, but still toweling his hair.

"Now, hey..." Buck tried to object, but JD interrupted.

"Buck, roles reversed, you'd make me do you're gonna do it." JD was adamant. Nathan was impressed.

Buck relented, "okay, okay." But his eyes held respect as he looked over at JD.

"Good, now let's make sure we take the Gameboy...." JD chatted on as Buck met Nathan's eyes, sharing...well he can't be grown up all the time.

Hospital, 8:30am

Josiah's silent beeper vibrated in his pocket. The message read urgent. He gently shook Chris awake. "Chris, I have an urgent page, but I didn't want to leave until I woke you."

Chris nodded, he felt better with the two and a half hours of sleep. Josiah left the room quietly. He stood up and stretched, walking about the room to get the blood flowing. His cellphone rang and he answered it after that first ring. "Larabee."

"Chris, what the hell went down with that bust yesterday? We've got the FBI wanting an internal investigation done, and criminal charges filed on Wilmington."

Chris's stomach muscles tightened at Buck's name, but he was riled, no one messed with his team. "Who's calling for this shit, Judge?" He stepped outside Vin's door so his yelling wouldn't worry him.

Travis answered, "Section Chief Addison, said he had three teams in there and the complaints came from agent working in conjunction with Wilmington. Cited misconduct and dereliction of duty."

"Buck was head honcho, he didn't have no one working in conjunction with him. Get me the name of the complainer and actual incidents cited. I'll call you back." Chris closed his cellphone with a slap. He thought back to Josiah's disclosure, the tampered tape. He was still leaning against the counter when the orderly passed him and entered Vin's room. He looked down to his feet and noticed the pressed dress pants and wing-tipped shoes and knew instinctively that Vin was in danger. He rushed into the room as the man was injecting a fluid into the IV drip, Chris shoved him aside as he ripped out all of Vin's IV's. Beeps sounded as Chris tore into the man trying to escape the room. Chris slammed him against the wall, and with the force of all the pent up anger, his head hit hard and he fell to the floor unconscious.

The ICU team rushed into the room and the nurse immediately began connecting Vin back up to the IV drip. Chris yelled, "NO! Poisoned. He put it in the drip bag."

The nurse looked horrified.

The doctor, unfamiliar with Team 7, "Now you don't know that to be true."

Chris's menacing stare as he approached the doctor had the doctor feeling distinctly uncomfortable. The nurse, fearing for the doctor's safety interjected, "Doctor Stevens, you can take Mr. Larabee at his word. If he says the drip has been contaminated, it has been."

She handed the contaminated bag to Chris. As he took it from her he glanced at her name tag, "Thank you, Janelle."

"Team 7's dedication to each of its members is legendary here at the hospital, Mr. Larabee." Janelle answered him. She returned to Vin's side as the new IV drip was brought into the room.

Chris retreated to the corner of the room. Keeping an eye on the unconscious assassin, he flipped open his cellphone.

ATF Headquarters, 8:50am

Josiah got off the elevator looking for Ezra, his 'just get here' was ominous to say the least. He spotted Ezra in Chris's office, at his desk, on the phone. Ezra waved him in as he spoke, "..No, if Mr. Larabee requested that you call him with that information, please respect that. We'll work with it here, but he needs to hear it from you at his end. ......Yes sir." Ezra replaced the phone and rubbed his face before repeating it all to Josiah.

"There was an attempt just now on Vin's life, Chris saved him and caught the perpetrator. The Judge is sending down men to collect the perp and collect the evidence." Ezra rubbed his neck, then continued, "Travis said he has several highly trusted men that he will be using for that job. He doesn't want it to get back to Mullins that his man failed."

"Travis is not bucking Mullins involvement.?" Josiah wondered.

"I told him we had visual proof and he said it fit with where this was coming from. We don't know all who could be in on this, so he's letting us run with it." Ezra got up and walked over the fax machine and waited there. "This morning Section Chief Addison called for an investigation and for arrest of Buck. He said he'd fax the actual charges. He said he didn't want to be able to reach us the rest of the day." Ezra grinned at that.

Josiah nodded, "Can't give us any orders that way. We'll need to head out to Chris's ranch. Let's call Nathan and tell to let the machine take any and all calls." The fax machine rang and the transmission sequence started. They picked up the papers, and any others from the office that they might need and headed to Chris's ranch.

Hospital, 9:15am

The nurses just finished moving Vin to a more secure room on the same floor when Chris's cellphone rang. "Larabee."

"Chris," Travis' voice responded.

Seeing the nurse waiting, he said into the phone, "Hold for a sec, Judge." He put the phone behind his back and looked at Janelle.

"Mr. Larabee, the doctor said that Mr. Tanner was improving faster than he expected. We're not out of the woods yet. But we can be a lot more optimistic."

Chris smiled his first smile in two days, "Thank you Janelle." He watched her leave the room before putting the phone to his mouth, "Okay Judge, what do ya got for me?"

"Addison said that request came through channels, but he believed they originated with A.D. Mullins. Claims that Buck treated the liaison poorly, and chased after all the female agents and made unsolicited advances. Also suggested we check the tape, claims it was altered by Buck. Says he has a witness that saw Buck at 12:45 yesterday, at the van. This makes him look bad."

Chris shook his head, "Well Judge, at 12:45 yesterday, I was beating the hell out of Wilmington. So I know for a fact that he wasn't at no van. This whole thing is a set up. I don't know how Vin plays into it. But Buck is innocent of all those charges." Chris paused, then added, "Hell even his advances are verbal, never physical."

"Chris, the most you all have is twenty four hours. I will be out of the office for the rest of the day." Travis disconnected and Chris hit a different series of numbers.

"Nate, do you happen to know where Josiah and JD are?" Chris asked with a smile, knowing that he did as he asked.

"Yep, with me."

"Where at?"

"Sitting in front of a computer," Nathan smiled into the receiver.

"NATHAN," Chris quietly bellowed.

"We're all at your place, needed your sophisticated equipment." The smile could be heard, then Nathan's voice became solemn, "Chris, this is serious, you don't have all the information yet."

"Well then, maybe you boys need to get your butts down here and fill me in. What do you say to that?" Chris used his not so really mad voice.

"All of us?" Nathan needed to double check.

"Yes, all of you. Bring the computer set-up too."


Comments to: