The nurse returned with an IV and started to set it up. Buck looked away as she inserted to needle, but JD never flinched. After setting the dosage, she turned to leave, giving Buck a big smile. Buck smiled back and told her thanks. Normally, Buck would have taken the invitation and come on to the young nurse, but worry for his young friend drove those thoughts to the back of his mind for now. Vin heard the nurse sigh under her breath as she passed him. Vin just shook his head. How did the man do it? Buck, unaware of the scene playing out behind him, leaned over the youngest of their group and continued his ministrations. In a few minutes, JD sighed and settled into his pillow again.
Vin sat down in the chair Buck had occupied earlier. He ran his hands through his hair. "He do this every time?" He interlocked his fingers and stretched his legs out.
"Yeah, mostly. He gets sick too easy. I keep thinking that giving him vitamins or something might help, but it don't do no good." He sat on the edge of the bed as he placed another cool cloth on the JD's head. "I always ask the doc why he's the only one of us that always gets a fever when he's in the hospital. Doc didn't even know. Says he's healthy, the blood work is always good. He's just susceptible to these fevers." Buck looked at Vin. "You know what I think? When the kid's confined in bed, he don't have anyway to burn off all that nervous energy, so it just builds up as a fever and burns off that way."
Vin cocked his head and took a hard look at Buck. "You know, Buck, that sounds as reasonable as anything else I've heard." Vin flashed one of his crooked smiles. "And that scares me." Buck's response was the universally understood one fingered gesture. Both men chuckled.
By noon, JD was sleeping easily; his temperature back to normal. Vin had cleaned up and gotten dressed. Chris had called saying he would pick up the sharpshooter around lunchtime. Buck had tried to coax JD into eating lunch, but had little success. JD had never been a big eater of hospital food. He drifted off to sleep before Buck even finished his argument.
Chris and Ezra showed up around one o'clock, bringing fresh clothes for Vin. Taking the bag, the lean young man headed for the bathroom to change. "We've got all the paperwork done, so you're all set to go." Chris called to the closed door. Moments later the door opened and Vin came out. "No shower, cowboy?" Chris asked.
"I'll do that at the hotel." Vin glared at Larabee. Chris was well aware of the sharpshooter's' shy nature. He grinned as Vin's stance remained confrontational. Chris turned and joined Buck and Ezra at JD's bed.
"How is our young hero faring, Mr. Wilmington?" Ezra inquired
"He's good. He had a fever earlier, but he's all better now. Doctor said he was out of here tomorrow, as long as he has no more problems. They're keeping him another night because of the fever. Just to be sure he doesn't have an infection or anything," Buck informed them.
Their attention was drawn from Buck by a sigh from the bed. JD stirred and yawned. "Hey, guys. What's going on?" He surveyed the group gathered around his bed.
Chris moved over to the bed to place his hand on the younger man's arm. "Didn't get a chance last night to talk, JD. You did good. You did real good. You are the reason we're here today. Thanks."
Buck thought the youngster's face would split, he was grinning so big. Complements from Larabee were rare and hard won. A smart-mouth retort came to Buck's mind, but he stopped it before it came pass his lips. The kid deserved the complement. He had put his life on the line for the team and Buck felt a tinge of guilt that he had even thought of ridiculing JD's accomplishment. Let the boy bask in the glow of that praise for a while.
Chris stepped back. "Buck, you want a ride back to the hotel?"
Buck nodded. "Hey, let's talk a minute..outside. OK, pard?" JD glanced at his roommate. "Nothing to concern your self with boy." Buck softened his statement with a wink.
Ezra walked over to the bed. "JD, you will thoroughly enjoy the photographic genius I displayed this morning. They extracted our decimated motor vehicle from under the trailer you parked beneath. It was truly a most entertaining venture. The vehicle was wedged between the ramp you departed from and the trailer. There was not a spare centimeter between the ramp and the rear bumper of our former means of transportation. The powers that be spent an inordinate amount of time attempting to devise a method of removing said vehicle from under the trailer. It was finally decided the only option was to drag the trailer away from the ramp, thereby, either placing the vehicle in a more advantageous position or completely dislodging it from the aforementioned trailer. It was a spectacular sight. I was most entertained by the spectacle, almost to the point of not making a photographic record of the carnage. But I did manage to chronicle the event for your scrapbook."
JD listened intently, his eyes shining at the imagery the Southerner created with his words. "I should have the film by tomorrow and we can index them in order. It will be almost like watching of movie of devastation-only in reverse." Ezra's eyes were almost as bright as JD's. The two agents laughed at the thought going over the pictures with the team.
As Ezra occupied their youngest, Chris and Vin joined Buck in the hall. "You may think I'm crazy, but last night I got a real uneasy feeling just before they brought JD in-kind 'a like being watched. I checked the hall, nothing there." Buck dropped his glance to the floor. "I meant to call you earlier, but I got distracted. I ain't real comfortable leaving the kid alone."
Chris looked at Buck. "Well, I've learned to trust your instincts on these things, Buck. You didn't see anything?"
"No, maybe a shadow, but I can't be sure."
Chris looked at Vin. The sharpshooter returned the gaze. "It's your call, pard."
Chris glanced into the room at Ezra and JD. " Okay. So, what do you suggest?"
"Have someone stay close?"
"Sounds reasonable. Nathan and Josiah are planning to come up after they finished interviewing the perps. We can switch off through the night. Doc says that he'll release JD tomorrow morning."
Buck's eyes with to his young partner. "I'd just as soon JD didn't know nothing. He don't need to be worrying about anything, but getting better."
Chris nodded his agreement. Ezra came to the doorway. "Our young friend would like a soda. I thought perhaps that I would acquire the two of us refreshment and join young Mr. Dunne for an afternoon of leisure. If you gentlemen would not mind waiting a few moments, I will return post haste to watch over our young companion "
Buck's eyebrows when up in surprise. Ezra turned intelligent eyes toward the taller man. "You are as restrained as a Jack Russell terrier on PCP when it comes to the lad. Do not panic, Mr. Wilmington, the aforementioned youth is blissfully unaware of your concerns. I will distract him until such time as another of the team relieves me of that post."
Buck watched the easy speaking southerner stroll down the hall. A small look of doubt flashed across his face. Chris caught the look out of corner of his eye. "Ez is perfectly capable of protecting both himself and JD."
"I know that, Chris. I just..." Buck whispered gently.
Chris reached out and placed his hand on his oldest friends' arm. "I know, Buck. You feel responsible for JD's well being and don't want to trust it to anyone else. But you need help. You need to go get a shower and something to eat. You need to get some rest. We'll watch over the boy."
Buck stuck his thumbs in his jeans pockets, relaxing as he accepted Chris' statement. He nodded and reentered the room. "Hey, JD, we're going 'a be going now. I got to get some rest and something to eat. Chris and I'll pick you up in the morning. Ok?'
"Sure, Buck. You look tired. I should 'a made you leave last night. There wasn't any need in your staying." The color rose in JD's cheeks as he dropped his eyes. "But I'm glad ya did."
Buck reached over and tucked some errant hair behind the kid's ear. He dropped his voice low and spoke into JD's ear. "I couldn't have been no place else, boy. You rest and I'll see ya tomorrow."
He was rewarded with a wide toothy smile from his "little brother". "Ok."
Ezra reentered the room with two cans of soda and chocolate bars. "Are you leaving?"
Chris grabbed Vin's dirty clothes stuffed them in the bag that he had brought the clean clothes in. "Ok, cowboy, let's go. Kid, see ya in the morning. Ezra, don't tire him out. I'll see you at the hotel this evening." Chris pushed Vin out the door as he turned and waved at his roommate of last night.
Buck slapped Ezra on the back "See ya later, Ez. Don't let the kid take all your money."
"I believe Mr. Dunne is the one to pass that warning to." Ezra rose and followed Buck to the door. "Buck, do not despair. I will endeavor to shield our young companion from the circumstances of last evening's disquiet or any rascal that may intend him mischief." These words were spoken at the doorway, out of earshot of JD. Buck clasped Ezra's hand with both of his and telegraphed a silent thank you with a hard gaze.
The five showed up together when visiting hours started that evening. They found Ezra teaching their youngest member the fine art of poker and how to spot a cheat. JD was concentrating so deeply, he failed to notice the arrival of the team. Buck dropped a paper sack in his lap, causing JD to jump and scatter cards on to the floor and bed.
JD composed himself. "Hey, Buck, morning already?" And received a cuff on the head.
"Smartass. Maybe I should just leave and take my reward with me." JD drew the bag close to his chest. He had no idea what was in it, but he didn't want to give it up. Buck smiled and ruffled his young friend's hair.
Chris stepped up and placed a hand on the southerner's shoulder. Ezra started gathering cards. "JD, we need to work on that inattention. Bad guys could sneak right in on you and you wouldn't notice until you were surrounded."
"Ah, Chris, I pay attention. I just trusted door duty to Ezra tonight. It's impossible to sneak up on him." JD stared at his companion. Ezra simply shook his head.
Josiah laughed. "Boy can be entirely too trusting at times."
"Mr. Sanchez, are you questioning my integrity?"
JD piped up. "So, what's in the bag?" Without waiting for an answer, he tore into the bag. "Alright! Chocolate mint! I haven't had it in so long. Thanks. Anybody want some?"
"Thanks, but I just ate."
"Thanks kid, but I'm watching my sugar intake."
"Ok. Then it's all mine." And with that JD dug in. "Hmmmm. Good."
"Lord, kid. Should I get you a bib?" Buck laughed and headed to the bathroom to get a washcloth.
Ezra got up and moved across the room. Buck tossed the cloth at JD, then, joined Ezra next to Chris and Vin. Chris stood with his arms across his chest. "Did he eat any supper?"
Ezra turned his back to the bed. "Nibbled at it. Seemed more interested in the rearranging of the provisions, than the consumption."
"Yeah, I figured as much."
"Makes you wonder where all that nervous energy comes from." Buck just shook his head in wonder as he turned back and walked over to the bed. JD reached for the envelope on the nightstand.
"Buck, you need to check out the pictures Ezra took this morning at the warehouse."
"Whoa! Why don't you wash your face and hands before you start flipping through those pictures." Buck tossed the cloth that lay untouched on the bed at the kid's face.
"Thanks, Buck." He used the cloth to clean the stickiness from his skin. Tossing the cloth onto the tray,he reached into the envelope. He began to shuffle through the stack of photographs.
Buck turned to Ezra. "Did you have these when you got here this afternoon?" Chris heard the menace in Buck's low growl.
Ezra smiled slightly, noticing the malice in the larger man's tone. "No, Mr. Wilmington, I did not. I reasoned that young Mr. Dunne would be anxious to inspect the damage he inflicted on our, now debunked, vehicle. Therefore, I arranged to have the film developed and delivered to this room. We had a wonderful time perusing each shot. The series of shots depicting the trailer removal are the most gratifying. Smoke rose from the abused tires as they were drawn across the pavement."
Buck rolled his eyes and turned back to JD as he continued to flip through pictures, oblivious to the baiting Buck had experienced. Larabee watched the two agents. He often wondered why Standish chose to bait the men he worked with on a daily basis. The team's undercover agent was still an enigma to his leader. Though the man was extremely good at what he did, but he was a private person, not willing to thrust himself totally into an open relationship with the others on the team.
The seven passed the photographs around and congratulated Ezra on his photographic expertise. They took turns filling in the events of the previous day. By the time they were finished, JD had a complete picture of that day's events from each man's point of view. As the men talked among themselves, JD asked "Chris, did we ever get anything on Spenser?" It was a question that had been on all of their minds.
However, Chris could not give his men a good answer. Spenser's apartment was turned without results and staked out in case he returned. A warrant had been issued to freeze Spenser's bank account and assets. The man would show sooner or later Chris thought again. With no money or family to turn to, the scumbag would hopefully surface soon. "No, nothing yet. We'll get him though." The look on Chris Larabee's face made JD shiver. He hoped he was never on the receiving end of that look.
The conversation turned to sports and that was what got them in trouble. As their argument continued to grow in volume, the nurses began to stop by the door and ask them to keep their voices down. The third time, the floor supervisor walked through the door and ordered the men out. A short war of wills ensued between her and Larabee. The Larabee glare had met its match. He turned that glare on the youngster in the bed when giggling arose from that area. JD quickly dove under the covers to silence any further outbursts. Buck was the only one undaunted by each glare. He walked over and plopped his long frame down in the chair closest to the bed, stretching his legs out and crossing his ankles as the others quietly waved their goodbyes.
"I ain't quite ready to leave, but I will be quiet. Promise." Buck crossed his heart, flashing a brilliant smile.
The nurse looked at him with her arms akimbo. "Does that work very often for you?" she asked.
"Why, yes ma'am. More often than not." He threw her another big smile.
She stood for a moment, saying nothing. "Ten minutes-then I call security." She turned and left the room. Lord, if I were only twenty years younger, she thought to herself.
"It's safe, kid."
JD poked his head out from under the covers. "I thought they were going to go at it for a minute."
"Nah. He's never hit a woman," Buck said distractedly.
JD watched Buck. He didn't like what he saw. His best friend looked tired with eyes that seemed dull and sunken. "Buck-what are you doing here? Go to the hotel and get some rest."
Buck rubbed his face with both hands, feeling the stubble of a day's growth and stifled a yawn. "I'm okay, kid. I just didn't want to leave ya here all alone since we're not at home."
JD sat up straighter. "It's a hospital, Buck. I'm never alone. Why you acting so protective? Is something wrong?"
"Hell, kid. Can't I just want to be here without having to have a reason?" Buck jumped up and started pacing around the room.
Sitting up, JD watched the older man. "No," he finally stated.
"No? No what?" Buck turned and faced JD.
"No, you can't not have a reason. You're acting nervous. You can't sit still for more than a couple of minutes." JD glared at his roommate. "I know you, Buck. You're hiding something. What's wrong?"
Buck stopped pacing and looked at the young man for a moment. Then he turned away, saying "Ain't nothing wrong. Kid. Why..."
"NO!" JD watched as Buck whipped around to stare at him. He thought to himself 'Stick to your guns. Don't let him intimidate you.' "Don't do that, Buck. I'm not a kid. I'm a federal officer-just like you or Chris or Vin, so don't tell me 'Nothing's wrong.' Just talk to me-as an equal. I'm not a baby that needs to be protected." Several emotions crossed Buck's face within a few seconds-hurt, anger, pride, shock. JD tried to tone down his speech, before Buck totally exploded. "Buck. Please just talk to me. I do appreciate your caring- really. But, sometimes, I think you don't trust me. You keep things from me."
"JD. You know we trust you." Buck stated.
"Yeah, I know. But sometimes, I feel left out of the loop because you all decide to 'protect' me." JD looked down at his hands lying on the sheet.
Never hesitating, Buck came over and sat on the bed. "JD, we never meant to make you feel that way. I'm sorry." Buck took the boy's chin and raised his head. Finally, JD looked up into a pair of sad brown eyes. Both men smiled. "I really don't know that anything is wrong. Last night I saw, or thought I saw, something, but I can't be sure. Felt like I was being watched. The hair on the back of my neck is still standing up. I talked to Chris and he agreed that as you are the weak link, someone would be with you, until we head home."
Buck had seen the flash of anger on the young man's face. JD had started to protest, but Buck threw up his hand. "Just simmer down. You're in the hospital. That means no gun and an open door policy. Anyone can walk in here and there wouldn't be a thing you could do about it. Am I right?"
Buck waited as JD chewed on that thought. When his head reluctantly nodded, Buck continued. "So, there's probably nothing wrong. Just ole Buck being paranoid. Bare with me, kid, I just need to know you're okay."
JD shook his head and laughed. "I guess a little paranoia goes with the job."
Buck plopped down in the chair next to JD's bed. "Well, I got to say I feel better with that said. Why don't you settle back and rest? I'll be here in case you need anything." He stretched his long legs out and got comfortable.
"You're not staying all night are ya?"
"Nah. We're taking shifts. Vin will be here in the morning when ya wake up."
JD settled nestled down in the bed and yawned. "Night, Buck."
"Night, kid. I'll see ya in the morning."
JD woke the next morning to find Vin Tanner's blue eyes watching over him. "Bout time, kid. I was beginning to think you planned on sleeping all day." the young Texan drawled.
JD laughed. "Yeah? And how long's the sun been up? Half an hour?"
"Oh, well, I reckon a good five minutes more than that."
The bed rattled as JD laughed and stretched. "Buck send any clothes for me?"
Vin shook his head. "Nope. Said he'd bring 'em with him when he and Chris come to get us."
The two young men sat in an easy silence for several minutes. JD's eyelids started to droop and he dozed off until the nurse came in with breakfast. "Thanks, Ms. Hendrix."
"Your welcome, Mr. Dunne. I'll be back in about 30 minutes to get the tray." She smiled at JD. Then, with a nod to Vin, she turned and left the room.
Vin looked over at JD and laughed. The kid had raised the lid and sat staring at the institutional breakfast with disdain. "Come on, JD. Is it that bad?"
JD looked from the tray to the sharpshooter. "Well, it looks like eggs, but I ain't too sure." Then he laughed. "I think I'll just stick with the coffee."
"She likes me. She'll understand."
Vin flashed the kid a crooked smile. "Kid, you been around Bucklin too long." Vin shook his head. "Maybe we can get Chris and Buck to buy breakfast after we leave here."
"Hey, now that is a good idea." JD settled back on the bed.
Good to her word, Nurse Hendrix returned to get the tray within a half hour. She gave JD a frown after examining the untouched meal. JD flashed her a look of remorseful smile. She shook her head as she left.
The room fell into silence again. Once again, JD's eyes began to droop, when he suddenly started as his head dropped to his chin. He threw back the covers and swung his legs off the bed.
Vin jumped up and stopped the boy from jumping off the bed. "What'd you think you're doing?"
"I am not going back to sleep. I think I'll get cleaned up. Then I'll just have to change when Buck gets here with my clothes." He gingerly slipped off the bed and tried weight on his injured ankle. "Hmm.. not too bad."
He hobbled over to the rack mounted on the wall across the room and took a fresh gown down. His clothes were in the closet in a bag. JD opened the bag and dug out his briefs. Pausing for a moment, he finally shrugged his shoulders. As he entered the bathroom and closed the door, Vin vaguely heard 'How dirty can they be?'. Chuckling, he walked to the window and stretched. He placed his hands against the window frame and watched as the morning sun rose from the horizon.
JD made quick work of his shower. He had no razor, so after a fast shower, he used his fingers to straighten his long dark hair and exited the small room. Vin was sitting stiffly in the chair, his eyes cast down. JD opened his mouth to ask if he was all right, when he felt the cold steel of the business end of a gun press against his neck. He tensed, shut his eyes, and waited.
"Sorry, JD. I turned my back on the door."
Vin's apology brought JD's eyes open. A slow smile crept across his face. He slowly shook his head. "Not your fault. Can't exactly sit around a hospital with a drawn gun can you?"
Spenser's gravelly voice came over JD's shoulder. "Now ain't that sweet. Absolution. Not your fault, Mr. Tanner. Mr. Larabee's team just isn't the perfect ensemble everyone claims." He grabbed JD by the back of the neck and directed him toward Vin. "Okay, boys. This is the way it will go. The kid sits in the wheelchair. Tanner, you push. We go the elevator and go down to the parking garage and we drive away. If either of you say anything to call attention to us, I'll shoot the kid first and you second." Tipping the gun towards Vin. "Then cap whoever else is near. Is this perfectly clear?" Neither man responded. JD looked at Vin Tanner whose fury was evident. Spenser was not a patient man. Getting no acknowledgement from either man, he squeezed JD's neck-hard. JD gasped and drew his shoulders up, leaning forward to escape the pressure. "Do you understand?!" Spenser jerked JD back toward him.
"Yes!" JD answered breathlessly. "Okay."
Vin Tanner was shaking. His fists were clenched so tightly, he drew blood as his nails bit into his palms. "We understand," Vin spoke softly. "Let 'em go."
Spenser knew he was pushing the young Texan. "Are you giving me a order?" Spenser quickly brought his hand around to the front of JD's neck and gripped him by the throat. "You don't give me orders, 'Agent' Tanner." He tightened his grip on the tender flesh under his fingers. JD clutched at Spenser's arm with both hands, but could not get any relief. He struggled to draw a breath, wheezing in the effort.
Vin wanted to rip the heart out of this sadist, but he would have to wait. He mentally counted down to calm himself and relax. The words hung in his throat, then fell softly past his lips. "Please. Let JD go."
Vin grabbed JD as he stumbled forward, gasping for air. Spenser laughed as he watched the two men. Vin examined JD's throat as he rubbed the bruised area and shook his head. "I'm fine." came raspy answer.
"He's not hurt. Not yet." Spenser gloated. "Now that we understand each other," Spenser tossed a pair of scrub uniform pants on the floor in front of the two men. "Put them on kid. Can't have you going out in public naked now, can we. Still a bit chilly outside."
Vin picked up the thin pants and handed them to JD. He turned back to the closet. Spenser stepped back and brought up the gun. "No. The pants only. I don't want people thinking we're leaving."
"He needs shoes. It's 40 degrees outside" Vin protested and grabbed the bag out of the closet.
"It's closer to 50 and we'll be in the car. Lose the bag."
Vin started to say something else, but JD's hand on his arm stopped him. "Help me get the pants over my ankle." Vin tossed the bag on the bed as JD sat on the edge. Vin took the pants from JD and worked the material over the bandaged ankle. JD stood as Vin brought the pants up to JD's waist. "Don't start something if you can't finish it, remember?' JD whispered into Vin's ear. The sharpshooter nodded. He could wait to exact justice. He just hoped he was the one that got to dispense it, knowing he would be competing with Chris and Buck for that pleasure.
Vin pushed JD past Spenser and out the door. Spenser followed close by JD, the gun concealed in his jacket pocket.
They were halfway to the elevators when a voice called them from behind. "Mr. Tanner, where do you think you are going with that young man?" Nurse Hendrix came around and stepped in front of the trio resting her hands on her hips.
"Oh, Nurse Hendrix." JD smiled up at the heavyset nurse. "My friend, Spense, he bought a new truck. He wants to show it to me and Vin. We were just going to the waiting room by the elevators to look at it through the window. " Spenser tensed as JD leaned forward and lowered his voice slightly as if to conspire with the nurse. "Actually, he's had that thing on order for so long, we thought he made the whole thing up."
Carolyn Hendrix shook her head. "You boys and your toys." She reached down and pulled up the footrest on the wheelchair. "You need to keep that leg elevated, young man. Don't stay long. The doctor is making his rounds soon and he has to check you before you can be released. Understood?" She eyed all three men. Her eyes settled on Spenser. He nodded his head. Satisfied, she walked away, patting JD on the shoulder as she passed.
Spenser gripped Vin's arm. "Wait." He turned to see the nurse turn into the station and disappear from view. "Okay. Let's go."
After a moments wait, the elevator doors slid open to an empty car. The three entered and Spenser pushed the button for the parking level.
"Fast thinking upstairs, kid. You saved three lives." JD sat silently. Spenser chuckled at the glare Vin shot him. The doors opened to the parking area. Spenser directed Vin to a dark blue Buick backed into a handicap slot near the door. "Okay Tanner, stop here." Spenser snapped handcuffs over Vin's right waist. "Leave your right hand on that handle and bring the left around your back." He pressed the gun against JD's neck. Vin felt the cuffs slide through his belt in the back. Then Spenser grabbed his left waist and snapped the cuffs closed. "Okay. Get in the back." Spenser pulled the wheelchair out of the doorway so Vin could bend down and crawl in. "Go all the way across. Kid, lean over and put your hands behind your back." Spenser cuffed him and assisted the boy into the back of the vehicle alongside Vin. Shoving the wheelchair away, he climbed in the front and started the car.
"Okay, boys, let's go call your boss. And don't try anything. I only need one of you from this point on. I'll shoot whoever doesn't start it, so you boys are responsible for each other now." Both men glanced at the other.
Vin groaned as the car left the garage and turned past the front of the hospital. Chris' black 4x4 rental was parked in front. Vin cursed at the timing. If Chris had been ten minutes earlier, JD would have been safe in his and Buck's hands. Now, due to his own lack of vigilance, JD was in danger. Vin was aware of the fact that he was the real target. Spenser was well aware of his close relationship to Chris Larabee. Chris had cost this man his job and his life and Spenser wanted revenge. The best way to hurt Chris was to hurt the team. Vin was Chris' closest friend on the team now. That would have described Buck before JD joined the team. Now, it was Vin's role and that made them both vulnerable. Spenser was using that relationship to get to Chris. Vin began to plot Spenser's demise.
"Any word on Spenser yet?" Buck transferred the gym bag with JD's clothes to his right hand after bumping Chris for the third time in the small elevator car.
"Nope. They have a team watching his place and his bank account is frozen, but I doubt he had a large amount stashed in there."
The elevator doors opened and the two men stepped out. "He has a sister is Seattle. Hasn't contacted her that we know." Chris nodded at the nurse behind the desk. "If he has access to the big money, he's probably gone." He pushed open the door to JD's room.
Buck followed Chris in, stating, "I hope he is gone. Good riddance to bad news. " He tossed the bag on the extra bed. "Kid?" He glanced around the small room, and then knocked on the bathroom door. Getting no answer, he tentatively pushed it open. Empty.
Chris was standing by the second bed, looking at the disarray. "Why are the kid's clothes tossed up here?" Chris looked around the room.
"Ah, Hell. Vin probably took him down to get something to eat. You know how those two are. Can't stay still for nothing." Buck tried to keep the doubt out of his voice, but he felt the cold hand of fear on the back of his neck.
Chris' face spoke volumes. He was gripped be the same cold hand. "Let's talk to that nurse."
They strode back down the hallway. "Excuse me, ma'am."
Nurse Hendrix looked up into a pair of ice blue eyes. "Good morning, gentlemen. May I help you?"
"The young man in 408-do you know where he is?"
"Mr. Dunne? Yes. Mr. Tanner and another gentleman pushed him down to the waiting room by the elevators. He said they were going to look at the third gentleman's new truck. The boy was joking about him having it on order so long."
Buck was halfway down the hall by the time she finished speaking. Chris kept his eyes on the door Buck disappeared into. Moments later Buck reappeared and glanced both ways. He went to the stairwell and peered up and down before turning back to Chris. No words were spoken or needed. The two youngest team members were missing. Chris clenched his fists on the desk.
"Is something wrong?" Carolyn Hendrix was standing now. Worry lines creased her brow.
"Did you know the third man? Had he been here before?" Buck rejoined Chris.
"No. No, I don't believe so. JD said his name was..oh let me think." Chris took a deep breath. Buck's hand fell on his shoulder. "Oh, yes- Spense. The boy called him Spense."
"Shit," escaped Buck's lips before he could stop it. "Sorry, ma'am"
Chris reached into his pocket and pulled out a copy of the APB bulletin. He unfolded it and placed it on the desktop. "Is this the man?"
The nurse's face paled as she looked at the picture of Spenser. "Oh, Lord. Are those boys in trouble?" She looked at Chris and then Buck. "If I'd only known. I should have stopped them. That boy was NOT dressed to go outside." A fierce look came over her face. "He was only wearing a hospital gown and some scrub pants. He didn't have any shoes on. Not even any socks. I should not have allowed them to go."
"Carolyn." Chris' soft voice drew her eyes to his. "You could not have stopped him. If you tried, chances are he would have shot you or one, maybe both, of them boys. He's beyond caring if he hurts someone." He watched as the nurse took a deep breath. Chris saw her regain control of her emotions, saw the professional face drop back into place. "Now, can you tell me, when did they leave?"
"It could not have three to five minutes before you arrived. You just missed them." She saw the fear in both of their eyes. But she also saw the fierce determination in those eyes. "I'll call security. They tape all the entrances. Maybe they can tell what they were driving and even which way they left."
Chris nodded. "Thanks. That will help." He turned to Buck. "Call the others. Get 'em here."
"What about the debrief?"
"Screw it. I want the team together in thirty minutes and out front."
"And where're we going, Chris? We got no idea where he's taken those boys."
Chris's voice vibrated with the fury contained within his soul. "He'll call and tell us. He's an arrogant son of a bitch who thinks he's holding all the cards. He'll call. And soon."
Buck's eyes narrowed as he listened to the team leader. He inclined his head in acknowledgement. Point taken and understood. Buck pulled out his cell phone and started dialing.
Vin knew it was a futile act, but he was angry. Spenser had driven them away from the hospital and their friends because of a hatred for Chris Larabee. He drove straight to the warehouse where the deal was supposed to have gone down; the warehouse where the Seven had dismantled Spenser's lucrative operation. He pulled inside and parked the car. After closing the overhead door, he had returned to the car and opened the door where JD sat. Without preamble, he had grabbed JD by the arm, dragging him from the car. Vin had started across the seat when he heard the sharp gasp of pain as JD's ankle impacted on the door. He wasn't fast enough to prevent Spenser pistol-whipping the kneeling youth in the face. Vin jumped from the car and rammed the bigger man in the small of the back as he drew his gun back again. Momentum carried both to the ground. Vin kneed the man in the kidney a couple of times before Spenser rolled away. Vin rolled in the opposite direction, trying to get to his feet. Spenser jumped to his feet and approached the struggling Tanner as he tried to rise. He drew back his leg and kicked the agent in the ribs. Vin rolled onto his side and curled into a ball, trying to catch his breath. Spenser reached down and grabbed the stunned agent up, slamming him against the back fender of the car.
JD struggled to get on his feet. He could hear the sickening thuds as Vin was thrown against the car. Finally, JD managed to stand. He could see that Vin was unconscious; at least he hoped he was only unconscious. Hampered by his ankle, he rushed Spenser as hard as could, catching the larger man in the back with his shoulder. Spenser was propelled forward, forced to release Vin to prevent himself from slamming into the unforgiving metal. JD watched as Vin slid into a boneless heap to sit against the rear wheel of the Buick.
A growl drew his attention back to Spenser. "Son of a bitch!" he bellowed as he grabbed JD before the boy could move back. "Damn Larabee! Damn his whole fucking team." That was all JD heard before he was picked up and slammed against the concrete floor. He vaguely heard the snapping of bone before the darkness closed in.
'Why am I on a boat?' JD thought to himself as he slowly became aware. He was conscious of a rocking sensation, then a voice began to intrude on his consciousness.
"Wakey. Wakey. Come on, kid, I know you're in there."
Again, the sensation of rocking. Spenser slapped the semiconscious ATF agent a little harder. "Come on, kid. It's time to get this show on the road. Wake up."
JD shook his head, trying to clear the cotton that blanketed his brain. Suddenly, he remembered Vin, Spenser, the warehouse. His eyes flew open and he tried to move away from the hand abusing his face. He found that his hands were still cuffed and his ankles were bound together.
"Finally. Can you see me?" JD blinked, then glared at the man towering above him. He lay on the concrete in another section of the warehouse.
"Where's Vin? What'd you do to him?" JD swiveled his head, trying to scan the area for the other agent. "Where is he?"
Spenser bent down and jabbed a finger into JD's chest. "You don't worry about him. You worry about yourself." He growled menacingly. "This is my show and I'm not answering questions. You got that, kid?"
JD glared at the other man, but said nothing
Spenser stepped back. He placed his foot on the prone youth's ankle and pressed down. JD gasped as pain screamed up his leg, numbing him to all other sensations. As he jerked, he felt the bones in his right arm grate together, sending another wave of pain through his lithe frame. Even though he shivered in the cool warehouse, beads of sweat broke out on his forehead and upper lip. Gritting his teeth, JD asked again "Where's Vin?"
Spenser shook his head. "Damn. You're a stubborn little cuss, aren't you?" He stepped back and away from JD. He smiled. "Tanner's fine. I cuffed him to the car. Okay?"
The young man's gaze met his captor's unwaveringly. "Okay."
Spenser reached into a pocket and withdrew a phone. "What's Larabee's number?"
"What do you want Chris for?"
"Please don't be obtuse kid. I gave you what you wanted. I told you where Tanner is and that he's okay. Just give me the number." Spenser watched the emotions play across the boy's face. "Okay. You have two choices. I can call the main number to the ATF and leave a message for Larabee telling him where to pick up the pieces of his agents." The dirty cop squatted down and whispered, "I'll even let you watch me disassemble your friend." Spenser laughed as he stood. He hadn't thought the boy could get any paler-he was wrong. "Or..you can give me the number. You and your friend live a little longer. Larabee shows and I either kill him or he kills me and rescues you and Tanner. Your choice, kid. How good is your boss? Do you trust him with your life and that of Tanner's?" Spenser strolled around the prostrate young man. JD closed his eyes to ease the feeling of nausea that threatened to overwhelm him.
Regaining control of his stomach, JD opened his eyes. He gave Spenser a glare Chris, himself, would have been proud of. With a smirk, he confidently said, "I'll bet on Chris Larabee, over you, any day." That said, he rattled off Chris' cell phone number.
Spenser punched in the number, but did not hit 'send'. Instead, he reached into his jacket and pulled out an object. JD's eyes widened as Spenser pulled the pin. He reached down and gripping the young man by the arm, he flipped him over on his side. JD groaned as the broken bones shifted again. Spenser put the grenade in JD's hands and turned him onto his back again. "Hold that for me."
Spenser saw the flash in JD's eyes. He bent down, close to the boy's face. "Yeah, you could let go and we'd be history. But Tanner is still chained up. No one is coming to help. Not yet. Starving to death, in a cold warehouse, in a strange town, now there's hard way to die." Spenser patted JD's face and stood as he watched the thought die in the boy's eyes. "Good choice. Hold on tight, kid, I'm calling in the cavalry right now." Laughing, he walked away as he punched 'send' and waited for Larabee to answer.
JD watched Spenser walk away. Clutching the grenade, he said a silent prayer that Chris would arrive to help Vin and stop Spenser without anyone else getting hurt. He closed his eyes, shivering as the cold concrete floor leeched away the little heat his body generated, and waited.
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