Authors Note: This story is just a silly little piece, which is somewhat out of character for the guys, but it is meant to be a bit of Halloween fun.
Disclaimer: I do not own them. They are the property of MGM, Mirisch, and Trilogy Entertainment; however, if they ever come up for sale, I will be in the front row at the auction.
Thanx to Mog for creating the ATF universe.
Feedback is welcome and greatly appreciated, but no flames please.
Buck Wilmington loaded the cases of beer and the snacks he had just purchased at the liquor store into the back of Josiahs suburban. He climbed back inside with the four other members of team seven who were on their way out to Chriss ranch. The team leader had invited them all out to help initiate his new satellite dish that had just been installed that day. Buck was anxious to check out the Playboy channel. His teammates claimed to be interested in all the sports channels, but he was fairly sure they secretly wanted to check out the adult entertainment as well. "Okay Josiah, lets roll," he said as he fastened his seat belt.
Sanchez started the motor and then eased the vehicle back out into traffic. Soon they were leaving the hustle and bustle of the city behind them, and almost instantly they began to relax and let the tensions of the past few weeks slip away. The assignment the team had just completed had been a long, intense case, and they were all greatly relieved to have it behind them. It had been their leaders idea to have a dish initiation party at his place, as a way to celebrate the successful completion of the bust.
Nathan, JD, and Ezra occupied the backseat of the old suburban and had been relatively quiet during the exodus from the city, but they were starting to perk up somewhat as the city lights dimmed on the night horizon behind them. It was getting dark earlier now that fall was well established, but the late start was mainly due to the fact that they had stayed over to finish all their reports so they could start a much needed vacation break tomorrow. "Hey, Buck," JD said as he leaned forward to talk to the bigger man in the front seat. "Ya, suppose we shoulda picked up more food? Ya know we all usually end up staying out there a day or two when vacation starts."
"Mr. Dunne," Ezra spoke up for the first time, "our illustrious leader informed us that he had procured adequate supplies for our sojourn at his domicile. Why do you insist on concerning yourself over matters which .."
"Ah, Ezra, I know what Chris said, but my mom taught me to always pitch in when I am stayin with someone." JD always felt like he was taking advantage of Chriss hospitality when he stayed out there and did not at least offer to help with supplies to feed all of them. This was definitely a group of men who had very hearty appetites.
"Dont go gettin yer back up, kid." Buck chided. "We are pitchin in. Were bringing the beer and munchies." The younger man nodded in acknowledgment of what his mentor had just said. It was true enough that they would not arrive empty-handed.
A short time later, Josiah turned the suburban off the main highway and headed down the country lane that would lead them to Chriss ranch.
"Thats strange," Nathan stated from the back seat. "The whole place is dark."
"Yeah, well, Chris said he would be grilling steaks so they must be out back," Buck observed as Josiah pulled in beside Vin Tanners motorcycle.
The five men piled out and helped Buck with the bags of goodies. JD was the first to reach the house and opened the door to go inside. With his free hand, he fumbled around and felt for the light switch next to the door. There was an audible click when he flipped the switch, but nothing happened. The room remained dark.
By now Buck had joined his young friend, and he became impatient as he juggled a couple cases of beer. "Come on, JD. Hit the lights and move. Im about to drop this," he grumbled.
"I did, but they arent working," Dunne shot back at him.
Wilmington heaved an exasperated sigh, sat the beer down on the walk, and then shouldered the teams surveillance expert out of the way.
"Hey! " JD was used to Bucks brusqueness, but it still irritated him for someone to just push him aside.
"Sorry, Kid." The half-hearted apology was accompanied by the sound of the light switch being flipped on and off. The ladys man stuck his head back outside. "Hey, Josiah, you got a flashlight? The power must be out." He waited while Sanchez made his way back to the Suburban and came back with two flashlights. He handed one to Buck and kept the other one for himself. Buck switched on the light and adjusted it to a wide beam. He was momentarily stunned into silence as he took in the scene inside the house. When he found his voice it came out sounding alien to his own ears. "Holy Shit! ..Oh, God! . CHRIS!! ."
Josiah pushed his way in beside Buck, and his breath caught in his chest as he played the beam of his flashlight around the wrecked room. From behind him, the other members of Team Seven asked anxious questions because they couldnt see around the two men who blocked the door. Sanchez glanced back at them. "Something is very wrong. The place looks like a disaster area."
Cautiously, the men entered the dark house, the beams of light created eerie shadows on the walls. Josiah and Nathan split off from the group and slipped down the hall to check the other rooms. They appeared to be untouched. "Everythings okay back there, but no sign of Chris or Vin," Nathan announced.
Wilmington picked his way through the scattered books and papers and maneuvered his way around overturned furniture, with JD right on his elbow. They entered the kitchen, side by side, through the wide arched door. They paused just inside the room while Buck scanned the area with the light. Signs of a struggle were evident here too, but not as much as there had been in the living room.
"I suppose it would be too much to wish for that Mr. Tanner and Mr. Larabee had a disagreement of sorts," Ezra stated ruefully as he eyed the mess in his leaders home.
"Maybe theyre out back," JD said hopefully. He took a few steps into the room and disappeared amid the clatter of objects being shoved around on the floor, and the sound of air being forcefully expelled from the young mans lungs. A loud gasp, followed by a string of curses the other men had never heard their youngest team member use, soon followed.
Josiah quickly swung his flashlight beam around to where Dunne sat ignobly among the scattered articles on the floor. "JD? You alright son?"
"Yeah, Im alright. I just slipped." The young man squinted to see the floor where it was barely lit by the edge of the beam. "Uh, Josiah, shine your light on the floor will ya?"
Sanchez shifted the light toward the floor and instantly five faces went ghastly pale. Blood! JD had slipped in fresh blood. The young man raised his hand and looked at the red smears across his palm where he had pressed his hand against the tile when he tried to stop his fall. He closed his eyes and swallowed the bile that rose in his throat; and then he looked fearfully up at his teammates.
Buck took a few cautious steps into the room and scanned the floor with his light. A short distance in front of where JD had landed were red streaks that looked like something, or rather someone, had been dragged from the room through the large red droplets that dotted the tile. Wilmington held out a hand to his young friend to help him up, and the group the men made their way out the back door, being careful not to further disturb what was looking more and more like a crime scene.
Once out on the deck they all took deep cleansing breaths to rid their senses of the faint scent of blood that followed them from the room. The sounds of horses caught their attention and they all looked out toward the barn. The horses were still out in the corral. Chris was always sure to have them all settled in their stalls by dark. "Well, gentlemen, it would appear that something is definitely amiss with our illustrious leader."
"Ezra? Ya suppose you could come up with something we havent all figured out already?" Nathan snapped at the southerner. His own fears were surging to the surface and he didnt need someone pointing out the obvious.
Buck adjusted his light to a tight, bright beam and aimed it at the boards of the deck. He could just make out traces of the smeared blood in places and on the steps. He continued to follow the trail until he lost it in the grass. "Shit! I cant tell where to look. For all I know I might be trampling on the signs."
JD peered out into the darkness, following the beam of light as Buck swung it from one area to another looking for anything that would tell him which way to go. "Buck, move the light back the other way a little. I thought I saw something." He stared intently into the distant reaches of the light. "There!" he said and pointed to what looked like shadows in the grass. They stretched out of range of the light, out toward the trees near the back of the property. On closer examination the shadows turned out to be where the grass had been mashed as something heavy had been dragged across it.
"Way to go, JD," Nathan said as he slapped the young man on the shoulder.
The men followed the signs in silence, each caught in his own fears of what they might find. At last Ezra broke the silence and asked quietly, "uh .Mr. Wilmington?"
"Perhaps it would have been wise to call in some backup before venturing off into an unknown situation." Ezra wasnt cowardly, but he did believe in covering all the bases.
Buck stopped and stared at the other agent. "Ez, we are forty minutes from town. By the time backup could get here ." He let the statement trail off, not wanting to say what they had all already considered.
Ezra nodded, "Understood." He turned back toward the trees and resumed the slow march with the other members of the team, all the while keeping his eyes and ears open for anything out of the ordinary.
Josiah gasped loudly as a blur of motion caught his attention, and he swung the light around. The beam illuminated a small rabbit where it sat with sides heaving in fright from the sudden scare of the mens presence. Josiah chuckled nervously. The absence of teasing from his friends told him they were just as much on edge as he was.
When the group reached the dense grove of trees they moved instinctively closer together. With only the two lights to guide them, and heaven only knew what waiting ahead of them, it was best not to get separated in the dark.
The signs were much easier to follow now. The litter of leaves and humus under the trees clearly showed the trail where something had been pulled through here.
The tension was so thick you could cut it with a knife. JD tried to ease himself farther into the knot of men without being obvious about it. His heart nearly leapt into his throat when a night bird suddenly swooped down out of the branches not far over his head. His heart pounded and his palms grew sweaty as he tried to settle his rattled nerves.
Nathan edged closer to Josiah. He tried to convince himself that it was only so he had more light so he wouldnt trip over a fallen branch or step in a hole in the dark.
Ezra concentrated on the breathing techniques he had often used to appear calm in tense situations. Off to his right something rustled in the bushes, and he was sure he heard a low rumbling growl. He swallowed hard and edged in closer to the group. Of all the times to be without his derringer rig. None of them were armed. Their guns were locked in Josiahs suburban where they all had shed the chafing harnesses once they had headed out of town.
Buck led the group through the trees. Each step was making him more uneasy. He paused and stared into the darkness. He would have sworn that he saw a pair of glowing red eyes, but there was nothing now. He gave himself a mental shake to dispel the image and moved ahead again. There it was again! He had not imagined it. He heard JD gasp behind him when the kid saw it too, and he felt the younger man reach out and get a handful of his shirt to hang onto. Under other circumstances Buck would have teased JD mercilessly, but right now he was glad for the reassuring touch of the younger man. The eyes disappeared and the sound of something moving away through the bushes allowed Buck to release the breath he had been holding.
They crept forward a few more yards, and the beam of the flashlight picked up something dark blue in the leaf litter and bushes ahead. Jeans! Wilmington closed his eyes and drew a deep breath before opening them again and moving cautiously toward the patch of blue. His hands were shaking and cold sweat ran down his chest and back despite the coolness of the night. A few more steps allowed them to see a still form lying partly under a bush, and just a little farther and they could see that it was Vin. A sudden feeling of being watched drew their attention to the red eyes watching from the undergrowth at the left of them, but the men would not be kept from their fallen friend. They edged closer and when they stood close enough Buck reached down toward the still form to see if he was still alive.
A deep growl reverberated through the trees, freezing Wilmington in place. He looked up to see the glowing red eyes were much closer now, and the low warning rumble from whatever lurked there sounded ominously close. Buck kept his eyes fixed on the bushes where the watcher waited, as he lowered himself down closer to the motionless form at his feet. At last his fingers touched his friends chest.
Suddenly, in a flurry of motion a hand grabbed Buck by the wrist and a face appeared directly in front of his own. "BOO!" Vin whooped as he broke into a wide grin.
Buck screamed and lunged backward away from his attacker and landed sprawled on his back in the wet leaves. At the sound of his scream the remaining members of the team scattered, all except for Josiah, who seemed to be rooted to the spot with his eyes closed, apparently awaiting his fate. JD squealed at least an octave higher than his normal vocal range as he turned and ran back the way they had come. Nathan dashed toward the cover of some dense bushes and slide into home in a move that would have made a major league baseball player proud. The undercover agent seemed to disappear from sight, but was soon discovered clinging to the trunk of a tree about ten feet above the ground where he stood on a scrawny branch.
The sound of uncontrolled laughter filled the small woods and finally began to break through the haze of fear that enveloped the five men from team seven. Slowly, Josiah opened his eyes, and JD stopped his headlong dash for safety. Light appeared behind the bush where the red eyes had last been seen, and Chris Larabee emerged carrying a small Coleman lantern. He moved to stand by Vin who had now managed to get to his feet and the two men leaned on each other as they laughed hysterically. "Oh man, Buck. If you could have seen the look on your face," Tanner barely managed to say as he struggled to regain control.
Wilmington stared wide eyed at the two men in front of him and felt a profound relief wash over him that his friends were okay, but that relief just as quickly turned to anger. "Tanner, you son-of-a-bitch! You scared me outta ten years of my life," he growled at the teams sharpshooter. Then his eyes locked on his oldest friend. The look of pure joy in Chriss eyes and the huge grin on his face looked so good, after so long of seeing only sadness there, that Buck couldnt stay mad. With a twinkle in his eye, he shook his head and began to laugh.
The other men gathered around the three laughing men and stared in disbelief. A noise behind them caused them to spin around just in time to see Standish drop from the tree branch he had been perched on. Josiah looked from Ezra to the branch and then back again. "How in hell did you get up there?" he asked in amazement.
The southerner straightened his jacket and brushed off some clinging bits of bark. "Why, Mr. Sanchez, I became quite adept at tree climbing when I was a boy in ." Josiahs laughter caused Ezra to stop and look at him indignantly. "I fail to see the humor "
Josiah draped a big arm around the smaller mans shoulders. "Ezra, admit it. You were just as scared as the rest of us." His deep, rumbling laugh was infectious, eliciting a shy smile from their unflappable undercover agent.
One by one the men regained their composure and gathered around the two pranksters. JD grabbed the werewolf mask from Chris and whistled admiringly. "Wow, this is just so cool, but how did you get the eyes to glow like that?" Chris showed him where the switch was and the young man immediately had to try on the mask. From inside the latex he continued to jabber. "I cant believe you actually got us that good. Hey, can I borrow this?"
Chris grinned at the youngest member of the team. "Sure JD, just remember to bring it back. But, what do you need it for now? Halloween is tonight." Hearing JDs laugh coming from inside a very realistic looking werewolf was a bit disconcerting.
"I just have to try this out on Casey. She really wont expect it if Halloween is over," JD explained.
"Well if she gets pissed, dont blame me," Chris warned. He looked at his team mates, and with a lopsided grin said, "Come on, lets go get those steaks. Ill cook while all of you straighten up my house." He held out a hand to help Buck up from the ground.
"Uh . You all go on ahead. Ill be there in a minute," the ladys man commented.
"Ah, come on Buck. Im starving," JD begged.
"Something wrong, Buck?" Chriss expression became concerned.
Wilmington hung his head and then resigned himself to what he could not avoid. "I sort of had an accident."
"An accident?" JD looked at him confused.
Knowing looks passed between the other members of the team, but Vin couldnt leave it alone. "Buck, ya okay? What kind of accident? Ya need some help?"
Wilmington glared at Tanner. "You know damn well what kind of accident. You scared the piss outta me, and if any of you tell anyone about this, I swear, paybacks are hell."
Chris held out a hand again to his friend. "Its our secret, Buck. Right boys?" Murmurs of agreement could be heard from the remaining team members. "Now, lets go." He pulled his old friend up from the ground, and they all headed back to the house. Larabee walked next to Buck in silence for most of the walk back, but when they neared the house he spoke up. "I got some clothes you can use, but " he paused until he was sure he had everyones attention, "maybe I need to find something you can use for a diaper." He was quick on his feet and managed to dodge the punch he was sure would be coming his way, and amid the laughter of his men he jogged on ahead toward the house. He couldnt help but laugh when he heard Buck swearing behind him. He quickly stepped into the kitchen and pulled open the first drawer he came to to retrieve his camera. Just as he got back to the door the other men started up the steps to the deck, with Buck in the lead, and they were momentarily blinded when the camera flash went off.
Bucks eyes widened in horror. "Chris .I swear you show that to anyone .Chris! CHRIS!!!"
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