Past Interference

by Kris

ATF Universe

Disclaimer: They own them, I do not, I just play with them. The seven like it....yes they do, they told me so. ATF created by Mog.

Nathan looked at his computer screen and hit the reply button.

"No reply path provided." The screen blinked back at him.

"Huh?" Nathan said aloud. He looked at his screen again, -In five days- was all it said. Now it doesn't even have a return path. Nathan had first thought it was a joke, but now, took it a bit more seriously. He tapped two numbers on the phone pad and waited.


"Ez, got a coupla minutes? Nathan asked.

Ezra, sensing an unease in his team member, and friend's voice, said, "Sure." The connection terminated. Almost before Nathan could put down the receiver, Ezra walked in the door.

"How can I be of service?" Ezra asked

Nathan motioned for Ezra to come by him as he queried, "Ezra, you understand hacking and know some little 'black tricks' for traveling along the electronic pathways, right?"

Ezra nodded as he tried to figure if this was a compliment or a slam.

Nathan, preoccupied, didn't notice the head shake, and looked up at Ezra. "Ez, what does this –no reply pathway provided- mean?"

Ezra was already standing beside him and reached across to tap several keys on the keyboard. Evidently not liking the response, tapped several more. As the screen flashed some gibberish, Ezra let his fingers fly across the keys as he employed some of his little tricks. His right index finger tapped his chin as he finished the end message.

"The message originated within this building, but not this system. The author is quite adapt at hacker tricks himself as this is roped upon it self. Not allowing standard tracing procedures. Does this message mean something?"

"No," Nathan shook his head, "I first thought it was part of some joke. Now I'm not too sure." Nathan stood up and was about to cross his office when the sound of shattering glass and a bullet imbedding itself in the wall had both men falling to the floor.

Ezra immediately whipped out his cell phone and dialed their leader's number.

The first ring had not completed its ring when Ezra heard, "Larabee."

Ezra said, "Shot fired into Nathan's office. No causalities." "Be right there."

Nathan had worked his way to the windowsill through the broken glass and was checking the roof tops with his field glasses. "I don't detect any movement. Which direction do you think it came from?"

Ezra crossed to the wall and checked the point of entry of the bullet, then answered, "Northeast."

Nathan checked that direction, "There's three rooftops and about a dozen open windows, can't pin it down any more than that."

The door opened and Chris walked in, closely followed by Vin. Chris looked over at Ezra and then to Nathan, checking for himself that they were okay. After assuring himself, he turned to Ezra, "What happened?"

Ezra was watching Vin with a smile on his face, thinking that Vin was like a blood hound, sniffing out the scene. He swallowed his smile and answered Chris. "Nathan called me in to check a computer problem, then when he stood, a single shot was fired from the northeast. Nathan could not pick out movement from any of the roof tops." Ezra paused, seeing this, Chris just waited for Ezra to continue his thought. Ezra noted that Chris didn't interrupt, so continued with his hypothesis, "I believe that shot is connected with the peculiar message that Nathan had just received via e-mail." Ezra pointed to the computer and Chris walked around to stand in front of it.

Nathan brought up the saved e-mail, -in five days-so that it showed on the screen. "What got Ezra involved was that the reply button does not work."

Ezra followed up with the information he had gleamed from his probe. "Because I believe it came from inside the building, it will most likely prove fruitless in ascertaining the culprit, as there is so many available terminals. In the lobby, anyone could have used those terminals, and this individual is extremely talented in masking the pathways."

Chris nodded as he turned to Vin, "Get a copy of those lobby tapes to Buck and JD, let them run through it a few dozen times to see if they catch anything."

Vin nodded and picked up Nathan's field glasses again, "Over there, northeast, just as Ezra said, I can make out a site stalk and the sun may have glinted off a casing." Vin pointed in the direction that he was looking.

Ezra smiled to himself, yeah a blood hound with great eyesight. To Vin, "Well. Mr. Tanner, shall we check it out?" Vin nodded again and followed Ezra out the door.

Chris tapped a few keys, checking for himself, the oddity of the reply pathway, then asked Nathan, "Does five days have any significance to you?"

"No, I already thought about the upcoming date, and nothing else comes to mind about five. I would of ignored it, but for the reply block." Nathan shrugged, his unfamiliarity clear in his expression.

Chris' response was interrupted as Josiah entered the room. He quickly took in the shattered window and questioned it. "What happened?"

Chris answered before Nathan, "Someone took a shot at Nathan. Vin and Ezra are checking out a possible site across the street."

Josiah shook his head and his face became very serious, "Damm. I came over her to tell you that James Merrin has escaped and so this is probably connected."

Nathan's wrinkled brow and thoughtful eyes were the only response from him.

So Chris asked, "Who is this Merrin? What was he in for?"

Josiah answered, "That man had killed his entire family, but there was no evidence. Nathan was the only one who finally could link Merrin to the crimes. At the sentencing, he threatened to punish and kill Nathan."

"Hell, Josiah, lots of convicted murderers threaten those that catch them. I didn't take that one any more seriously than any of the other threats." Nathan replied pragmatically.

Curious, Chris asked, "What you find?"

Nathan waited to see if Josiah was going to reply, he knew the case almost as well as he did himself. They had met shortly after that, and Nathan had shared the entire episode with Josiah. Josiah shook his head and with his hand, indicated the Nathan should tell his own tale.

"The only fingerprint." Nathan smiled at that memory. Nathan paused, as they all could hear the hoard of footsteps approaching.

The door opened noisily and they could hear JD ask, "You sure he's okay?" He was able to see for himself as he piled into the room behind Vin, Ezra and Buck.

Vin said as he entered, "Called these two," indicating Buck and JD, "As we left here, couldn't reach Josiah," Vin smiled over at him, "Ignore the message I left."

Buck had walked over to the window, after inspecting it, asked, "Well pard, who'd you piss off?"

Josiah filled them in and got them all caught up, then turned to Nathan, "Should tell them the whole story. So they all know what kind of man we're dealing with." Josiah's expression turned to stone as his thoughts turned to Merrin.

Before Nathan could start, Ezra suggested, "Gentlemen, why don't we move out of this office and over to the lounge. Get some coffee going and seal the door."

Chris nodded his agreement and indicated to the rest to follow suit. After they settled in, and could smell the aroma of brewing coffee, Chris looked at Nathan, "Let's hear it."

Nathan sat forward in his seat and organized his thoughts, then began, "After I returned from the Gulf War, one of the men I served with, asked me to come to Atlanta and work for the PD there. He said they needed some fresh blood in the forensics dept. I was the rookie, only been there a few months when the murders took place. A horrendous, well planned crime. Fourteen people killed, all in the same house, all related by marriage to Merrin. James Merrin had married into the Rutherford family. An old, wealthy, southern family. The fourteen killed were all who would inherit before him. It made him the prime suspect. Only, he had an alibi. The Homicide Captain was sure that Merrin had done it, instinct, he'd said. But Merrin had never been to that house before. None of the neighbors could place him there the night of the murders." Nathan stopped as Ezra handed him a mug of the freshly brewed coffee. Nathan smiled his thanks. No one spoke, just waited for Nathan to continue.

"The victims had multiple stab wounds, but no weapon was recovered from the scene. The coroner himself performed the autopsies, but could find nothing unusual. When he had gone to run the toxicology's, his assistant called me over. We had worked well together on other cases, so together we re-examined the bodies. The residue water level was higher than it should be so I ran with an idea, that turned out correct. They were stabbed with icicles, so the murder weapon had melted. Jason and I figured that a different icicle had been used on each victim, that explained the water residue. Even though the coroner was not pleased that we had re-examined the bodies, he did take the findings to the Captain. We were then able to re-examine the house. Working on a hunch, I checked the freezer, figured that he had to of kept the supply frozen until he used them. In the back of the freezer, I found one lone print. It put him at the house and it convicted him."

Josiah added, "And he swore vengeance. He is crazy enough to follow through. The officials think that he escaped sometime yesterday afternoon."

"Where from?" JD asked.

"San Quentin," Nathan answered.

Chris pinched the bridge of his nose as he shook his head, planning. "We should notify the FBI of our belief's, and have a team set up watch at Nathan's place. Nathan'll stay out at the ranch with me. The perimeter alarms will alert us of any attempts to enter."

"Well, I'll come out too," JD said, "You're gonna need some help." Chris didn't get a chance to give an opinion one way or the other, as the rest of the team also volunteered to help.

Nathan smiled at his team members, once again reminded how they draw closer together when one is threatened.

+ + + + + + +

They were gathered once again at Chris' ranch, sharing their day's findings. Vin confirmed that the casing he found matched the slug they dug out of Nathan's wall.

Chris looked over at Buck, lounging on the sofa, "Find anything on those tapes?"

Buck nodded as JD bounced up and pushed a video tape into Chris' player. "At two different angles, we found a man that fit the description that Josiah gave us. I was hoping that I could play with some of your enhancement equipment, then we could get a close up." JD's voice held the excitement of a kid getting a Sega system for Christmas.

Chris couldn't help smiling at JD's enthusiasm, and gave him the go ahead nod. JD pulled out the tape and all but skipped to Chris' office. Buck and Josiah followed along after JD, but without the bounce.

Ezra filled his coffee mug as he updated them on the stake out. "The FBI was more than willing to accommodate our request. They appear to be as anxious as we are to find Merrin. They have a twenty-four hour surveillance team set up. They'll notify us if he shows up." Ezra glanced at Nathan, he appeared to be more pensive that usual. Before he voiced the thought, they were hailed from the other room.

"Hey guys!" JD's voice beckoned them.

As they all entered the office, Chris saw Josiah at the terminal instead of JD. Josiah looked over his shoulder as they approached, "It's Merrin, he came in with the cleaning crew. He worked on the computer in the lobby."

"Fax the confirmed ID to Dexter's office, then bring up his file. Let's see if we can second guess him." Chris directed as he looked over Josiah's shoulder.

As Chris and Josiah poured over the screen, Ezra joined Nathan at the table. "You appear unusually sober, my friend."

Nathan looked askew at Ezra, "I don't like putting you all in danger. If it were one of our cases, well that's our job, but this is a case that I worked on before any of this, before the team. It doesn't feel right."

Ezra picked at an imaginary piece of lint from his pressed slacks and schooled his expression, "Well, my friend, I do not believe that those arguments will dissuade any one of us from our present course of action."

"Ezra's right," Vin pushed himself from the wall that he had been unobtrusively leaning against. "This type of thing could happen to any of us, Nathan. Our past is not separate from us. So we do this together." Vin had a way of saying something, and that just made it so.

Nathan looked resigned as he rubbed his eyes. He glanced up at Ezra and Vin and nodded.

Josiah's, "Hey," had them all turn their attention toward him. "From what I've picked up here, he won't be going to your place, Nathan. He'll pick a place he can't be associated with. Your place would be too obvious. He won't reuse a place either. So the office will be safe. Here, and to and from, will be the most likely points. He's obsessive enough that he'll work on this project until completed."

Chris looked at JD, "Let the FBI know, knowing them, they won't pull the stake-out, but hopefully they'll make some more men available."

"That's cause they don't have Josiah." JD smiled at Josiah as he got up to place the call.

Chris opened the cabinet that housed the security system, "I'll place it on the most sensitive setting, Vin do a cursory patrol."

Vin nodded and left silently.

"Then I think it would be prudent for Nathan to travel to and from work with me," Ezra offered, then noticed JD's puzzled stare. He waited for him to put down the phone and continued. "After that last episode, I had bulletproof glass installed."

Light dawned on JD's face and Chris nodded and gave his go-ahead to Nathan's suggestion.

"Hey, I'm hungry, who's making dinner?" JD asked, breaking into everyone's musings.

"Since you asked, you are," Chris said, and had to hold his face expressionless at JD's indignant pout.

Buck laughed, "Here comes a sure case of food poisoning."

"Hey, now you wait just a minute there, Buck," JD began blustering, but Ezra interrupted.

"Actually, I'd be glad to prepare supper," Ezra said to the group. No one objected, they loved Ezra's cooking.

+ + + + + + +

Chris took off early for the office, habits are hard to break and he also wanted to check out the place before the others arrived.

Ruing the dusty terrain, Ezra pulled away from Chris' just after Vin. Ezra had Nathan and Josiah with him. Buck and JD followed them in Buck's truck. Vin had gone ahead in Nathan's SUV, hoping to draw Merrin out.

Ezra knew that Josiah was on edge, an instinctive feeling that something would happen soon. Josiah wasn't wrong, for just as they headed onto the interstate ramp, the windshield took a hit. The bullet bounced off the glass. Then, as Ezra braked hard, two more shots rang out hitting both front tires. The Jag spun around, spewing dirt, causing Buck, following close behind, to swerve and brake, so as not to run into Ezra. Ezra was still battling to gain control of the spinning vehicle when a fourth shot hit the left rear tire, propelling the Jag off the embankment. It slid down the embankment, bouncing side to side with each rut it hit. The vehicle stopped as it hit the sand. Only Ezra's expert driving skills kept the vehicle from rolling over.

Nathan popped his seatbelt and was about to exit the vehicle, but Ezra yelled, "NO." He hit the door lock button and locked all doors. "We're safer in here, till we ascertain where the shots are coming from."

Vin was just arriving, driving down the onramp the wrong way. Buck and JD were out of their vehicle, guns drawn, rushing down to check on the others. Vin ran-slid down the embankment, bee-lined for the Jag. "He took off after that last shot. He left in a two door Honda Civic."

Relieved, JD joked, "Didn't ya get the license plate?"

"775 ESR, Colorado plate."

JD's eyes grew as big as saucers, but Ezra was not surprised.

Buck was on the cell phone to Chris, filling him in and requesting a site team to go over the area. Josiah picked up the caution tape and roped off the entire area. Highway Patrol arrived on the scene and Nathan showed them his badge and appraised them of the situation and they helped cordon off the on-ramp.

Chris and the site team arrived at the same time, but from different directions. Chris' eyes immediately searched out and found Vin. Assuring himself that he was safe, switched instantly to Ezra and Nathan still sitting in the Jag. Signaling the paramedics, Chris trotted down the embankment, making eye contact with Josiah and felt relieved at his nod.

Nathan tried to ward off the medics but they ignored him, responding instead to Chris' stern look. Other than a seat belt burn and a small bump above his ear, Nathan was fine. As was Ezra, when they checked him next, despite his objections.

At the paramedic's nod and release of both Nathan and Ezra, Chris called out to Josiah, "Josiah, I want the site teams report today. Tell them to hand carry them to my office." Josiah nodded and walked over to the site leader.

Chris took out his cell phone, dialed, spoke a few short sentences, and then put it away. He hand signaled his team over to a clearing and waited for them to join him. When they all joined him, he said, "Leave your personal vehicles here, the site team will drive," then added at Ezra's raised brow, "Or tow them in." Then before JD could get out his question, Chris pointed to the incoming chopper. JD grinned at Chris trying to figure out how he knew his question.

Buck elbowed JD in the side, answering the unspoken query, "He knew 'cause you're predictable."

"Unh, unh, that's not true," JD shot back with. Buck just laughed.

The chopper set down and the seven of them bent their heads and ran against the wind and up churned dirt to climb in. Ezra noted right off that this helicopter had bullet proof glass. As soon as the door was secured, the chopper took off and landed them atop the ATF building in Denver.

Chris two finger saluted the pilot, adding a wink and grin as he took off. He stood watching after his buddy and former Seal Team member, stationed locally on presidential security detail. 'It's nice to have favors owed,' Chris thought to himself as he hurried downstairs to join the others in the conference room.

JD looked up as Chris entered the room, "You were right, the FBI says that they're still gonna sit on Merrin's place." JD the turned toward Josiah as he finished, "They said that Josiah can't always be right. They didn't want to take no chances, but their Captain did add reluctantly, that he would make a few more men available to you." JD stood there grinning at how pleased he was to be on a team that was so effective because they did trust each others judgments and talents.

Nathan broke into his reverie with his agitated voice, "I'm sorry guys, I've put your lives in danger, using manpower that could be better used..." "Better used? How? You're part of my team, no one tries to kill a member of my team and gets away with it." Chris interjected strongly.

"Sides, you're family." Vin said from his seat, "Family comes first."

"But Ezra and Josiah almost got killed out there, and Ezra's car..." Nathan looked over at Ezra with an expression of regret.

"Again. This isn't the first time, and oddly, I know it won't be the last that my car will be the unfortunate victim to other happenstance." Ezra said ruefully, but with no anger. "The car did what it was suppose to do, protect our bodies, and I for one, am glad that we came out unscathed." Ezra broke eye contact with Nathan to swipe at an imaginary fly. "I want a silver one anyway."

Chris' cell phone rang and Chris listened to the caller, his expression getting darker by the second. He thanked the caller and snapped his phone shut. Without preamble, "FBI squad found a bomb at your place Nathan. Set to go off when the door was opened. It's been disarmed and removed. They're going over to the ranch to check it out too."

"We need to trap this fellow," Vin said with clear menace in his voice.

"What's your thoughts, Vin?" Josiah asked, pen in hand.

"We need to let him think that there is a place that he can get Nathan alone. Some place normal, but still able to get ourselves in place to nail this buzzard." Vin elaborated.

JD looked incredulously, "What do we do that's normal?"

Buck shook his head, "Dates, you doofuss. Workouts, you know....hey," Buck turned to Nathan and he could tell that Nathan thought of the same thing.

"My karate class. That's a normal and regular thing I do." Nathan smiled a devious smile. "We can replace the students with agents. He hasn't been out long enough to follow me there, has no idea who's in that class."

"That it's then, let's make some calls." Chris became a quiet whirlwind, making a great many calls in a short time span.

Nathan talked with the instructor, setting up Chris and Vin as instructors, as they both had black belts. Josiah had called his gadget man, procuring surveillance equipment that also contained motion detectors. Ezra contacted some able bodies and Buck called some female agents to pose as class members.

Chris watched as his team finished setting up the trap. He couldn't help the rush of pride he felt when, once again, the effectiveness of his team hit home. They help each other whether they want it or not. Never letting the –it's my problem excuse- stand in the way. Never backing away from difficult, often dangerous assignments. He really hit pay dirt when he put the team together. That's what comes of going with the gut feeling he had on each one of these men. He looked over at Vin who gave him a knowing nod, as though, he too, agreed with his assessment.

"JD, you and Nathan go to dinner, the rest of us will set up the dojo. You will have protection. Do not leave the restaurant until we come for you. No sense in giving Merrin a shot we haven't set up." Chris asked of JD. "And, JD, use a fleet vehicle, not your bike."

JD looked as if he wanted ask to join them, but realized that Chris trusted him to look out for Nathan and gave Chris the nod he was expecting.

+ + + + + + +

The FBI team escorted Nathan and JD to the restaurant, entering first, they checked it out. They found two tables in close proximity and used one for themselves.

Nathan and JD sat and picked up their menus. After ordering, JD asked Nathan what he had been curious about all day, "Say, Nathan, what did you do during the Gulf War?"

"Worked in the medical corp." Nathan replied.

JD raised his brows, "You're not a doctor, how'd you get that assignment?"

"The Army placement officer thought that since I had been trained in forensic science, that meant I had some medical training. What he didn't know, and I didn't tell him, was that the police department trains you from the ground up. A person doesn't even need a degree. I had showed an aptitude and the Carsonville Medical Examiner took me under his wing and taught me everything he knew. He was a shrewd man in a small department. If he'd work in a big city, like Atlanta, his talent would have been recognized." Nathan paused as the waiter placed a salad in front of him. He peppered his, then continued. "I was stationed in Saudi, we had casualties from both sides. Some of the wounded wanted to stay on our side. Even though I wasn't fighting, it was still rough. We had to forgo some sterilization of equipment, we didn't have the time. The wounded would keep coming. I learned to do most everything. I'm glad I had the opportunity, but I wouldn't want to do it again."

"But isn't that what we're doing now, fighting a war on weapons and drugs?" JD asked.

"No, JD, it isn't the same. Here we're fighting the actual people causing the problem. In a war, people fight people, but the actual antagonists sit back protected and never actually participate in the ground fighting." Nathan shook his head, then started eating his salad.

JD chatted throughout the rest of their meal. They had just been served dessert when Chris and Vin walked in and sat down at the table.

Nathan sat back and looked at Vin, "All set?"

"All set," Vin smiled, then leaned forward and said in a low voice, "I'll even wear my hair in a ponytail for you, don't do that for just anyone." Nathan returned the smile.

Chris stood up saying, "Well let's go join the slumber party." JD wasn't sure, but he thought he saw a smile.

+ + + + + + +

JD dropped off Nathan as though he didn't have a care in the world. He passed the surveillance van that Buck and a FBI agent were maintaining, and that he would soon join. First JD had to drive back to the office and pick up a different fleet car before returning.

Inside the dojo, Vin and Chris had arrived in the afternoon to work with the real teacher. After he had acquainted them with the instruction sequence, he left dressed as a pupil. The afternoon session that Chris and Vin taught were comprised of FBI agents. As that class ended, some were already arriving for the evening class. The air of normalcy that all agents maintained bode well for the outcome of the operation.

Ezra arrived in a non-descript Plymouth and parked it in the lot. He wore the standard work out clothes for class and had his hair combed down and parted, Vin had to look twice to be sure it was Ezra. He started right in with the warm up stretches, his muscles obviously familiar with the moves. His buff upper body had several of the female agents giving second and third looks.

Josiah acted as the maintenance man. He had completely grayed his hair and added several more lines to his face. He slumped his shoulders to complete his look of a considerably older man. He moved slowly about the changing room picking up after the arriving class.

Nathan walked in and no one paid any more or less attention to him. He nodded his head at a few class members and set about changing for class. He, himself couldn't locate the surveillance cameras that the others had installed the night before.

Vin taught the class and Chris would personally correct technique and rhythm of movement. Class was orderly and uneventful. The agents enjoyed their paid work out and left in small groups, chatting, furthering the impression of normalcy.

Nathan stayed and talked with the teachers a bit, then made his way back to the changing room. The few scragglers bade him goodbye and Nathan found himself alone. He knew there were a couple of class participants still talking with Vin, but Nathan was on alert anyway. He heard footsteps behind him, but still gave a start of surprise as the voice spoke.

"I said I would get even with you, and I keep my word." Merrin said from directly behind Nathan. "Turn slowly or I will drop you where you stand." The gun was pointed at Nathan's chest.

Nathan turned and said with disgust, "You consider yourself honorable?"

"Indeed, to all I hold dear. However, you represent my only incomplete project. With you deleted, I can ask for a new trail." Merrin smiled at his thoughts.

In the van outside Buck alerted the entire team to Merrin's presence, agents silently surrounded the building. Buck signaled Chris' vibration pager.

Chris held up his palm, and signaled silently that their query had arrived. Vin went to his bag to retrieve his gun and joined Chris, who'd fetched his also. They made their way to the locker room.

Ezra , on his way to change, felt the vibrating signal. He slowly entered the locker room and stood just inside the door. He remained motionless, trying to get Nathan's eye.

Out of the corner of his eye, Nathan registered that Ezra stood there. He was able to make out that Ezra held up his hand, fingers spread, five...then four fingers...three...two...Nathan knew his opportunity was approaching.

"Nathan, I see you have company," Ezra said loudly.

Merrin responded to the voice with a slight turn of his head, giving Nathan the window of opportunity to reverse his situation. Nathan high kicked the gun from Merrin's hand and immediately followed with a kick to the chest. As Merrin tried desperately to catch his breath, Nathan used the inside of both hands to land a crushing blow to both sides of Merrin's neck and kneed his chest. Merrin crumpled to the floor, Nathan then wrenched his left arm behind his back, snapping the handcuff in place. Roughly, he pulled Merrin's other arm behind his back and cinched the cuff's mate.

With a heart felt intensity, Nathan said, "You are under arrest, you bastard." Nathan backed up as several FBI agents came to relieve him of the nuisance located on the floor.

Chris pushed his way through the throng of agents to see for himself that Nathan was unharmed. Grasping his shoulder, his squeeze communicated his relief that he was intact.

"It went off, just as you'd planned." Nathan smiled, his own relief reflected there. "Now my friends are no longer targets."

Vin joined them, effortlessly moving through the assemblage of personal milling about to record the crime scene. He smiled at Nathan, but his attention wandered over to Ezra, who was headed toward Josiah.

Ezra had observed Josiah at the back of the locker room, and became puzzled at the look of something forgotten and his partner's face. "My friend, you seem preoccupied by something distasteful. Can I be of some aid?"

Josiah pursed his lips as he pointed his finger at the air in front of him, "This seemed too easy. His profile has me believing that his obsession with Nathan would include more." Josiah seemed to search his thoughts.

Ezra did not scoff at any of Josiah's musings, they had all learned in the early assignments that Josiah was usually right. "What's missing?"

"The back up, something for just in case he missed here........when he missed at the onramp..."

Ezra broke in, "The car, he expected JD to pick him up." Ezra whipped out his cell phone and called the van. In to the receiver, "Is JD there....well where in the hell is he? Dammit!!" Ezra kicked the locker as he pushed in another number, then a message. He repeated the dialing and entered another message.

Vin noticing something amiss, asked, "What message?"

Ezra showed him the pager message, = bomb in car..get out. NOW=. Ezra explained, "Josiah felt we'd missed something. Like last time Merrin missed, he had Nathan's place wired. He would've used the same MO this time. He saw JD drive Nathan around last night and today....we need to get word to JD." This last part was said with more emotion than he usually showed.

Chris joined them in two strides, holding his phone away from his ear. Looking at Ezra, he asked, "What the hell you say to Buck......and what the hell is wrong with JD?"

Ezra was about to re-explain when Vin did it for him. Chris's expression went from discouraging to downright bleak. Into the phone, barked, "Pick us up out back, and hurry." The team ran outside. Buck, barely missing several sidewalk residents, had the doors open as they arrived. Buck drove even faster as he heard the problem.

They were still several blocks away when they felt, then heard the explosion that came from the same area as their offices. They rolled in and a cop on the spot attempted to stop them. Chris was ready to tear into him, but Vin interceded before Chris could say anything damaging.

With their badges displayed, they made their way into the rubble, searching for their friend. Buck was running frantic, yelling, "JD!," every few seconds.

The security guard from their floor met them, "A bomb went off in the parking garage. The first floor sustained some damage, but the rest of the building came through undamaged."

He was about to add more when Nathan asked, "Did you see JD? Did he come up here?"

The guard shook his head, "I never saw him."

"Shit," Chris said as he made his way through the rubble to the garage.

Buck had an entry hole and yelled, "Here, we can get in here." The rest of the team ran over to the hole that Buck just disappeared into. Yelling over his shoulder, "The garage attendant said JD went in, but never came out." With that Buck sprinted off yelling JD's name.

The men spread out searching and calling for JD. Vin spied a foot and alerted them all with a loud, "HERE!" Vin bent down and gently picked off the car door lying atop the body. Brushing away the concrete rubble, he gently called out JD's name. He was finally able to see JD's body as the others gathered around him.

Buck cried out hoarsely, "Is he alive?" Vin was just placing his fingers to JD's neck, hoping like hell that he would feel something. Finding nothing, he realized that he was shaking so bad he could hardly tell. Taking a steadying breath he felt again. There, faintly, Vin could feel a steady beat. With tears in his voice he said, "He's alive."

Nathan yelled back the way they had come in, "We need paramedics. Now! Hurry." Josiah actually ran back to the entrance to make sure that help was on the way.

Buck leaned down to touch JD, as if assuring himself the JD was really alive. He, too, could feel the heartbeat, but it scared him that the boy should lie so still. Not moving at all.

The paramedics crawled into the entrance, Josiah aided them by pulling on the gurney they were trying to push through. Josiah waved them off and just carried it himself.

Firefighters and agents were enlarging the entrance and reinforcing it so their exit would be easier. The paramedics were talking to base as they checked JD's vitals and placed him on the gurney. They couldn't roll it so Buck and Josiah carried it for the medics. The ambulance was there at the entrance, waiting. Nathan and Buck got in with JD. The others headed straight for the van for the agonizing ride of fear to the hospital.

On the ride to the hospital, JD came to for a few seconds, in a whispered voice, "Buck......the message..." But then drifted off and was unconscious again.

As Chris, Ezra, Vin and Josiah burst into the emergency room, the head nurse, recognizing them said, "Okay, which one is hurt, I'll pull his file."

Vin uttered, "JD."

The nurse's face fell, "Oh, the young one." She turned to the credenza and pulled his three inch folder out. "Here we go, I'll get it right into the doctor."

As the nurse went in, Buck came out and headed straight for Ezra. Ezra's eyes widen a fraction, then completely as Buck picked him up off the ground and bear hugged him tightly. Ezra managed to squeak out, "Mr. Willmington, please. Breathing is difficult."

Buck complied and placed Ezra down gently. Then hugged him again. With real tears in his eyes said to Ezra, "JD says your message saved him. He got out of the car even before your second one, and it was the force of the explosion that sent him flying. But he was far enough away. Thanks to your quick action Ez."

"Your thanks are misplaced, Josiah figured out that there had to be more." Ezra denied any good doings.

"Ezra, you can't weasel out of this, your quick thinking saved JD. I owe you." Buck hugged him again. It was hard to tell if Ezra liked it or not, but he stopped fighting it.

Ezra was ready to hug the doctor when he appeared as that was the only distraction that got him out of Buck's embrace. They all turned to him as he stared to speak. "Agent Dunn will be fine. He has a mild concussion, and his hearing is fuzzy. But his ears are undamaged and the ringing will subside by tomorrow. We'll keep him over night to stay on top of the concussion. His few abrasions cleaned up nicely." Buck shook the doctor's hand, as the rest sighed audible sighs of relief.

Chris looked over at Nathan, whose relief was palatable, and gave him a smile that was just reserved for his family. He thought to himself, safe, all safe once more.

The End

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