Atlantan Legacy XVII - New York, New York

by Squeakypeep

Crossover Without A Trace

Disclaimer: Not Mine.. no profit.

Acknowledgements: Mog’s Universe - Thank you.

This is an attempt at a crossover. It is doubtless filled with inaccuracies, so to you New Yorkers and TV Buffs, sorry about that! I haven’t been to NYC since I was a kid and I have never seen Without a Trace – I don’t watch much TV (if the kids aren’t watching Winnie the Pooh then my husband’s watching football) but I do know we haven’t got it here yet. That said, I’ve only seen one episode of M7 and I’ve never been to Denver, but that hasn’t stopped me writing! It’s fiction after all. Unfortunately, WAT hasn’t got much fan fiction yet and the episode profiles only give a brief outline of the scenario, without character interactions, so I had to read all the character profiles etc to get a feel for the show and I based this on that information. Tari inspired the scene on the airplane. More Ideas?

A huge thank you to the person who nominated this series for a ‘Mistresses of Malarkey’ Fan fiction Award. I don’t know who you are but it gave me a real boost! This is dedicated to you.

End September
‘New York?’ Rorie bounced up and down in excitement, ‘I’m coming too? Truly?’

Ezra nodded, grinning at her enthusiasm. His gold tooth glinted in the candlelight. ‘Consider it a reward for winning the Truman Academic Scholarship. I have already cleared your absence with the school, although you will be required to complete some homework assignments. You will also be expected to regale the class with details of the heaving metropolis upon your return.’ He laughed, well aware that his daughter loved an audience and the prospect of being the center of attention would only add to the thrill.

The bouncing became manic.

‘Settle down pumpkin, afore ya explode.’ The Texan, sprawled bonelessly in a chair in the living room, chuckled. It was going to be a long flight. Even with Daddy and ‘Uncle Everybody’ they were going to have their hands full with a four-year-old jack-in-the-box on the plane.

Six and a half hours in a confined space, with Rorie. Joy.

‘It’s an ATF/FBI Interagency Relations Convention, of four days duration. We will subsequently have two days free to see the sights, IF, and I mean if, you behave yourself in the hotel crèche whilst we are working.’ The Southerner gazed meaningfully at the child who blithely ignored the pointed look and continued to bounce unabated.

‘Yeah, yeah. Can we go to the Statue of Liberty? The Empire State Building? FAO Schwarz?’

‘Did you hear me Aurora?’

Rorie stopped jiggling. There was that tone again.

‘Yes Daddy. I am to behave myself.’ She peeked up at him seriously through her lashes and then turned to her uncle as he seconded the motion.

‘No trouble.’ Vin frowned in warning.

‘No complaints from the staff, parents or other children.’ Her head swung back to her father.

‘No practical jokes.’ Vin raised his brows at her.

‘And ABSOLUTELY no vanishing acts. New York is a Big City.’

‘Okay. Deal. When do we leave?’

Seven Continents Hotel
New York City
Tuesday Morning

Ezra yawned and stretched, blinking the sleep from his eyes even as he answered his internal, silent wake-up call. He peered blearily over the mound his body created under the blankets and grinned at the sight of Rorie, still in pyjamas, following a complicated aerobics workout on the muted TV set.

With all the ungainly grace of a hippo with a hernia, she pumped short arms and legs in time with the busty blonde in the turquoise leotard leaping about on the grainy screen. Attempting to follow the complicated dance routine, the little girl mistimed a step, got her legs tangled and tripped, arms wind-milling as she vanished from sight.

There was an ‘Oomph’ and a soft giggle as she hit the floor.

‘Are you all right Honeybee?’ Ezra sat up and leaned forward, peeking over the foot of the bed. Rorie grinned up at him from her prone position on the doubtlessly grubby carpet.

‘I think I’ll wait here and let the lady catch up!’ She pointed at the screen and Ezra looked up in time to see the blonde getting into position to do stomach crunches. He laughed and climbed out of bed, watching in amusement as Rorie ‘crunched’ along with the teacher. What she lacked in technique she made up for in enthusiasm.

‘Go take a shower, brat, while I shave. Once you are dressed you will wait for me and we will descend to breakfast together.’

‘Okay.’ Rorie leapt to her feet and stripped on the way to the en-suite, dropping her clothes haphazardly on the floor as they came off, only to stand bare and shivering as she waited for her father to adjust the shower so it wouldn’t burn.

The Undercover Agent patiently answered the endless questions as he rid himself of his morning beard, careful not to cut himself as he talked. Finally hauling her out, he wrapped her in a towel and sat down on the edge of the bath to fight through the wet, tangled, red-blonde tresses plastered to her head. Having won the familiar battle, he sent her to dress before climbing into the cubicle and grabbing a quick shower himself.

By the time the Standishes arrived at Team 7’s breakfast table in the main dining room, the rest of the group were already assembled and the buffet was closing. Ezra helped himself to coffee and juice leaving his daughter to charm the hostess into persuading the typically temperamental chef to rustle up a late plate of pancakes.

They were just preparing to head towards the convention room when a dark haired man, approximately Chris’s age, approached the table and clapped Sanchez on the shoulder.

‘Josiah! I heard you were going to be here this year. This must be your ATF Team.’ He nodded to each man in turn before focussing on the enigmatic blonde who was clearly leader of the motley group. The two men gazed at each other and, apparently satisfied with what they saw, shook hands as the big Profiler made the introductions.

‘Brothers, this is Jack Malone, head of the FBI Missing Persons Task Force here in the city. I had occasion to work with Jack and his team on a serial kidnapper case a few years back. Jack, this is our team leader, Chris Larabee, and the rest of the boys, Nathan Jackson, Medic and explosives, JD Dunne, Technology, Buck Wilmington, Surveillance, Ezra Standish, Undercover and Vin Tanner, Sharpshooter.’

Jack Malone stared hard at Tanner who shifted uncomfortably under the scrutiny. ‘I apologise for staring, Mr Tanner. You remind me of someone. Sort of.’ He shook his head and turned back to the table, fixing his gaze on the little girl who stared back, grinning.

‘And who is this?’

Rorie’s hand shot out and he dutifully grasped it in his larger one. He had two daughters of his own and a definite soft spot for little girls. ‘Aurora Standish. Pleased to meet you Agent Malone. You are really in the FBI?’ Jack nodded. ‘Do you know Mulder and Scully?’ She grinned impishly at him and he laughed at the annoying old joke despite himself.

‘I can see by the twinkle in your eye that ‘mischief’ is your middle name.’ The charming little blonde pouted playfully before breaking into a grin.

‘Yahuh. That’d be me!’ She turned to her father and uncles with a comically overplayed look of awe. ‘These FBI guys are good!’

Ezra rolled his eyes at the little drama queen even as the others laughed. ‘That’s not what you said the last time you met one.’

‘After him, the only way was up!’ The Southerner shook his head at her and glanced at his watch.

‘Time to get you to the crèche.’ Chris nodded in agreement, commenting, tongue-in-cheek, that his habitually tardy undercover agent wouldn’t want to be late. Ezra uncharacteristically refrained from making a verbal reply, instead allowing his fingers to do the talking and making the others laugh again at this uncommonly crude display. He ushered his daughter towards the foyer and the seven remaining men were able to catch the start of an interesting conversation.

‘Daddy you made a rude sign at Uncle Chris.’

‘No. I was merely using non-verbal means to converse with a colleague. Sometimes silence is obligatory whilst simultaneously communication is essential to ensure understanding. In order to facilitate comprehension of sentiment in all parties, it is occasionally necessary to employ…’

‘Now I know you were being rude, Daddy, you’re going ‘dictionary’ again…’

It quickly became clear just why the Texan had transfixed Jack Malone. His own newest team member, Martin Fitzgerald, bore a remarkable resemblance to the seven’s sharpshooter. Unlike Vin though, he dressed and acted more like Ezra. It was almost as if the shy tracker had cut his hair and decided to play dress-up in one of Ezra’s suits.


The purpose of the convention was to improve relations between Federal Law Enforcement Agencies and the ATF and FBI teams were each told to hook up with an opposite number from the other Agency. Having already met and sized each other up, Larabee and Malone got their squads together for the Inter-Agency Relations exercises scheduled for the rest of the week.

Unusually for the trouble-prone team from Denver, the week progressed fairly smoothly. Nobody brawled, got shot, stabbed or otherwise maimed and even their little mascot seemed to be behaving herself. It almost looked like they would be able to complete the trip without incident. Merely thinking of that gave Chris chills.

It couldn’t last.

It didn’t.

Guggenheim Museum
Saturday Afternoon

By the end of the week, Team 7 and Mispers had developed grudging respect for each other. Of course, that didn’t mean that they had to put up with the usual crap the FBI handed down and the Colorado group were not about to lower their guard whenever they had to deal with them.

Leaving his teammates to their own devices, the Southern Undercover Agent took his small daughter on a tour of the sights.

First they visited the Empire State Building to admire the view. Ezra placed a quarter in the telescope and held the little girl up so she could view the sights. She ignored the view and instead focussed on a window in an opposite building, informing him, loudly and with acute disgust, that the man in the office was picking his nose. The visit lasted for all of five minutes before they were on their way again for the Statue of Liberty.

They didn’t stop. Knowing that they would be unable to climb all those stairs, Ezra opted just to take a ride around the island on a small tourist boat and admire the regal lady from a distance.

By the time they reached the Guggenheim Museum it was mid afternoon and even the child’s abundant energy was flagging. Sensing her waning interest in the artwork, Ezra selected a table at the museum’s busy restaurant and sat down to enjoy a leisurely cup of coffee.

Rorie steadily worked her way through a glass of milk and a huge piece of chocolate cake before announcing that she needed to use the facilities. The pair made their way to the men’s room but were stopped at the door by the attendant who flatly refused to let the obviously female child enter the strictly male washroom. After a heated argument, Rorie declared herself big enough to go to the girls on her own. Reluctantly, her father conceded and he waited anxiously outside while she disappeared into the ladies room.

When she hadn’t reappeared after five minutes he began to worry.

‘Excuse me.’

The woman struggling to get into the bathrooms with two small children looked at him warily. ‘Yes?’

‘I am sorry to impose. My small daughter went in there a few minutes ago and has not reappeared. If you would be so kind…’

‘Sure. What’s her name?’

‘Rorie. She’s four, wearing jeans and a green Jacket. She has green eyes and blonde hair in bunches.’

The woman nodded. ‘Okay.’ She disappeared behind the grubby door. Ezra could hear her calling Rorie’s name. A minute later she stuck her head out.

‘She’s not here.’

The ATF Agent paled. ‘Are you certain?’ The woman nodded, a look of concern on her face.

‘I checked all the stalls. You’d better call security.’

‘I will. First I must check for myself.’ He pushed the door open, startling the woman who took a step backwards.

Getting some curious looks and ribald comments from the women in the washroom he began to search for his daughter. It didn’t take long to confirm that Rorie had indeed vanished. He all but ran from the room, straight into the arms of a suspicious uniformed security guard.

‘What the hell are you up to in there?’ Ezra grabbed his wallet and flashed his badge in the man’s face.

‘Shut down the exits. My four-year-old daughter is missing.’

Within minutes the doors of the huge building were secured and a search was conducted. After half an hour the police were called. Half an hour after that the rest of Team Seven began to arrive, summoned by the frantic Southerner.

It took two hours to complete a thorough search of the whole building. Everyone leaving was checked through a tight net of security personnel and police. There was no sign of the missing child. Ezra was pale, panic-stricken and unusually foul mouthed. The others stood around him in a worried group.

‘That fucking idiot! I knew she should have come with me! Why is it that only women are allowed to take their children into bathrooms? I can’t be the only single father of a female in the country, surely? Goddamit, she four! She doesn’t differentiate.’

‘It’s not your fault Ez.’ Tanner recognised that most of his friend’s anger was directed inward. Ez felt he’d failed Rorie, that he hadn’t protected her as well as he should have. Vin narrowed his eyes at the hovering men’s room attendant who had taken a cautious step backwards, away from the furious lawmen. They were an intimidating group.

‘I think we need some help.’ Chris flipped open his cell.

‘Malone? Larabee. You’re not going to believe this but we have a missing child. Rorie Standish. Yeah that one. She disappeared from the Guggenheim Museum two hours ago. Yes we’ve done that. Okay. We’ll wait.’ He turned to the Senior Police Officer hovering at his elbow. ‘I have called the FBI’s Missing Persons Bureau. Expect to have them descend on us shortly.’ The man nodded, impressed with the efficiency of the ATF Leader. Perhaps the rumors of conflict between the Federal Law enforcement Agencies were unfounded.

Four Hours Missing

‘Why does she do this to me?’ Standish was pacing in the FBI Office as Agent Sam Spade drew up the customary timeline. An APB had been put out on the child and every officer in the area was keeping an eye out for her.

‘She’s done this before?’ Vivian Johnson and Danny Taylor exchanged looks.

‘Not exactly.’ Nathan stepped into the silence. ‘She was snatched a couple of months ago to keep Josiah from testifying in a murder case and there was an attempt at a kidnapping by a paedophile prior to that. She does have a tendency to get into mischief around home but she has never just vanished when we’ve taken her out. She is an Officer’s kid and, in light of what’s happened in the past, you can appreciate that she’s well aware of the risks.’ Danny nodded, inwardly shocked at how much the small child had already been through. He gazed at the photograph of the petite, smiling blonde pinned to the whiteboard with a magnetic thumbtack. Cute kid.

‘She wouldn’t have wandered off on her own then?’ Fitzgerald re-entered the office from the break room, loosening his tie as he took a sip of his coffee.

Nathan shook his head but it was Vin who answered his doppelganger’s question. ‘No. Never.’

‘So if she wouldn’t have left willingly…’

‘Kidnapping.’ Chris’s tone was definite.

‘No problems at home or at school that you know of? Does she get on with everyone? You don’t think she’s frightened to come home for some reason?’ Danny Taylor hated to ask questions like that of a worried family, but knew they were unavoidable.

His boss answered, stepping in even as the Denver team bristled. ‘Not as far as I could tell when I met her Danny. She strikes me a happy kid.’ Taylor nodded silently.

‘There’s her grandparents. But they had no way of knowing we were in New York and kidnapping Rorie won’t give them access to her money.’ Ezra considered the possibility and dismissed it. Viv Johnson pressed for details and he grudgingly told her about the custody battle and the legacy bequeathed by her late mother. At a nod from her boss she went off to check it out. It was a possibility, however remote the father considered it to be. There was also the possibility of ransom if the child was worth that kind of money, even though it was not widely known.

‘So we are left with why and how.’ Sam turned from the completed timeline and faced the group in the small crowded office.

‘How is the easy part. There was a second exit to the washroom, leading out into the other corridor. Why? That’s open to speculation. Could be random. Someone wanting a little girl for his or her own nefarious reasons. Could be related to our jobs.’

‘We need to know what you’re working on.’ Chris nodded.

‘If it is the second one we’ll get a note or a call.’

‘I think I would prefer the second option.’ Ezra ran a hand through his mussed hair as he slumped against a wall. ‘I don’t care to contemplate other possible reasons why someone would want to take a little girl, the ramifications of that are too chilling to consider.’ He flinched as Wilmington placed a comforting hand on his shoulder.

‘We’ll get her back, Ez.’

Six Hours Missing
Up-State New York

Rorie washed her hands in the basin in the smelly toilets. She splashed some water on her face and gazed at her reflection in the mirror, seeing the traces of dried up tears on her flushed cheeks. She jumped as the woman placed a hand on her shoulder.

‘Come Darling. Time to get back on the road.’ Nodding silently, Rorie followed her to the door of the roadside diner. She stopped at the exit and smiled at the waitress.

‘Thank you Ma’am.’

The tired looking older woman, wearing a badge that labelled her ‘Joy’, summoned a smile for the pretty little girl. ‘You are very welcome my dear.’ She looked up into the mother’s face. ‘Your daughter is charming Ma’am.’

‘Thank you. Say goodbye Brenda.’ Rorie gazed up at the woman who had stolen her. She was an attractive middle-aged blonde but the look in her eyes was bordering on crazy. Rorie had initially balked at being called Brenda but had stopped arguing when the woman got mad. Frightened by the wild look, she had resolved to do as she was told. Her Daddy would find her. He told her last time not to try and escape, to wait for them to come, so that’s what she was going to do.

‘Goodbye Ma’am.’

Joy watched as the pair left the diner and then went to clear the table. Picking up the plates and cups from the booth they had occupied, she cleared the table and washed it down with a grimy cloth. Returning from the kitchen she picked up the coloring crayons and child’s menu and stuffed them back on the shelf with the others, not noticing the plea for help scribbled in the margin by the small guest.

It was nearly midnight and the diner would close soon. It would be the next day before any more children would require a menu.

Nineteen Hours Missing

The five FBI Agents had spent the better part of Sunday interviewing the hotel and museum staff and trying to trace all the families who had had children in the hotel crèche with the Standish girl during the course of the week. So far their enquiries had failed to produce anything other than dead ends. The child had vanished without a trace.

Ezra, already tired and edgy, jumped as his cell phone rang. He pulled it from the clip on his hip and glanced at the display. He didn’t recognise the number. He gestured to Malone who initiated a trace as the Southerner answered the call.


‘Hello?’ The voice was that of a woman, clearly unsure about the call. ‘Um, you don’t know me Mr Standish, and I’m sorry to bother you. I found your number scribbled on a kid’s menu in a diner with a request for help. It was signed ACS. Does that mean anything to you? If not I will make sure the number is scribbled out…’

‘It means something.’ There were looks of amazement around the office as everyone listened in to the call. ‘Can you read it to me please?’ Ezra sat down heavily in a chair. Vin gripped his shoulder.

‘Sure. ‘Kidnapped. Need help. 555-743-8762, ACS.’ That’s it.’


‘Who are you?’ The woman was obviously startled by the new voice.

‘Agent Jack Malone, FBI Missing Persons. Where are you please?’

‘Joey’s Diner, south of Paddington, Maine. Is this for real?’

‘Yes Ma’am. ACS is a missing child who disappeared in the City yesterday afternoon. The number you called is her father’s cell. Could you please stay there? We can be with you in under an hour.’


There was a rush for the door. Danny Taylor was on the phone organising a chopper to take some of the group, the rest would follow in cars.

‘JD, Josiah, you boys stay here and man the computers, we may be able to dig up something to give us a lead.’ Malone nodded, agreeing with Larabee that someone should stay in the office. JD and Josiah reluctantly remained behind, watching as the office cleared of FBI and ATF Agents.

Twenty Hours Missing

‘Thank you Mrs De Marco, for taking the trouble to call the number.’ Ezra smiled wanly at the mother of three with whom he had spoken on the phone.

Maria De Marco patted his shoulder. ‘I hope you get her back. Will you call me and let me know what happens?’ She handed him a card with her name, address and phone number jotted on it.

‘Of course. Thank you.’ Ezra saw the family out to their car and then approached the group talking to the waitress.

Joy looked up as the smartly dressed man came to stand with his colleagues. She gasped as she met his eyes. ‘Good Lord. She looks just like you. Except for the hair. You must be Brenda’s father.’

Ezra looked taken aback as the others frowned.

‘Brenda?’ The pretty blonde FBI Agent zeroed in on the name. ‘The woman called her Brenda?’

‘Yes. Isn’t that her name?’

‘No, ma’am. That’s great, the information may help. How did the woman treat the child?’

‘As if she really was her daughter. Just normal I guess. Sure didn’t ring any alarms if you know what I mean. The little one was real quiet and polite. She called the woman ‘Mama’.’ Ezra winced.

Jack Malone and Chris Larabee looked at each other. ‘Empty nest? Replacement child? Childless woman fulfilling fantasies?’ Chris questioned.

‘Possibly. Ask JD to check deaths of any girls, about Rorie’s age and named Brenda, in the Upstate New York/Maine area. It’s a starting point and currently all we have.’ Chris nodded and initiated a call to his computer whiz.

‘Miss Joy?’ The waitress glanced at the male FBI Agent.

‘Just ‘Joy’ Mr Malone.’

‘Did you see them leave? Yes? Did you notice what vehicle they were driving?’

‘I’m not really good on cars.’

‘Anything you remember may help. It was a car not a truck for instance?’

‘Yeah. Just a regular sedan. I don’t know what make though.’


‘It was dark outside so I can’t be sure but I think it was blue, maybe dark green.’

‘Did it have any marks? Like dents from accidents or anything?’

‘No, I don’t think so. It was new looking.’

‘That’s good. Any ideas about the plate? What State it was from, or any numbers?’


‘Any bumper stickers?’

Joy thought about that for a moment, her brow creasing in concentration. ‘You know I think there was a sticker in the back window. Yeah there was. I think it had a picture of an eagle on it. I can’t remember the writing though. I’m not even sure I was close enough to read it.’

‘Could you draw a picture of it?’

‘I’m not a very good artist but I’ll give it a go. Will it help?’ She pulled her notebook from her pocket and began sketching with her pencil.

Agent Spade responded. ‘We may be able to identify the sticker. It could be a sports team, or a school, something which could give us a local connection to the kidnapper.’ Joy nodded, amazed by what the FBI could make out from such a small detail.

‘Okay.’ Jack Malone took the proffered sketch. She was right, Joy was no artist. Her eagle looked more like a crow. He handed the paper to Sam who used the diner’s fax machine to send it to JD in the office. ‘They went north?’

‘It looked like they were going to go that way but you can do a U-turn further down the street, so I can’t be sure.’

Malone nodded. ‘Okay Joy, thanks. If you think of anything else, however small or insignificant it seems to be, you can call me, anytime.’ He glanced up as Tanner, Johnson, Wilmington, Taylor, Fitzgerald and Jackson arrived at the diner.

Tanner approached Standish. ‘Ey, Ez. How’s it going?’ He smiled at the waitress who automatically smoothed her dress and smiled back. ‘Ma’am.’

‘She was here Vin.’ Ezra handed the Texan the menu with Rorie’s scribbled note.

Tanner nodded, tracing a finger over the message as if it could bring him closer to the child. ‘It’s good Ez. She’s still alive an’ Okay. She’s workin’ ta contact us. Ya know that kid, she’ll probably appear in a police station somewhere. All smiles and smart mouth.’

‘I wish.’

Twenty-Four Hours Missing

Daddy where are you?

They’d arrived at a small clapboard house in the suburbs of a tiny town in the early hours of the previous morning. Rorie had absolutely no idea where they were. The wintry street outside had been quiet as she was hustled into the house and up the stairs. She’d got a glimpse of floral wallpaper and a piano in the front room before being pushed into a bathroom.

‘’Mama’ had given her a bath, cooing and teasing as she bathed her pseudo-Brenda, trying to get the child to play the part she’d obviously cast her in her own mind. Rorie had reluctantly played along, doing her best to stem the terrified tears as the woman dressed her in a frilly pink nightdress and tucked her into bed.

The bedroom door had been locked from the outside and ‘Mama’ had promised to bring her buttermilk pancakes in the morning. Rorie had immediately climbed out of the bed and tried to open the window, never mind that she was on the upper floor.

It was nailed shut.

Finally giving up on trying to prise it open, Rorie had investigated the rest of the room as well as she could in the darkness. There were toys and books tucked neatly into the shelves and a corkboard with childish artwork tacked to the surface. The name ‘Brenda’, obviously written by an adult, jumped out at her from the corners of the construction paper paintings. The chest of drawers and walk-in wardrobe held musty smelling clothing that looked to belong to a little girl of about her age. It gave Rorie the shivers.

After an hour exploring the room she climbed back onto the bed and gazed at the shadowed ceiling, tears trickling down her temples and pooling in her ears. Finally exhausted, she slipped into a restless sleep.

The whole of Sunday had been spent within the confines of the bedroom, with short trips to the bathroom to relieve herself. ‘Mama’ watched her the whole time, reading her stories and clutching the bemused little girl to her chest and rocking her like a baby. Uncomfortable at the close contact with the strange woman, Rorie remained stiff as a board the whole time, making her muscles ache with fatigue. At five o’clock the woman had gone back downstairs to make her daughter’s favourite food for dinner. Rorie wondered what ‘her’ favourite food would turn out to be.

She gazed at the ceiling of ‘her’ bedroom, following the swirls in the artex with her eyes and trying not to cry.

Daddy, where are you?

Hundreds of miles South, in the foyer of the hotel where the group of investigators were preparing to hole up overnight, Chris Larabee answered the ringing of his cell phone.


‘Chris, Josiah.’

‘Yeah Josiah, what have you got for me?’ The milling Agents all stopped to look at the ATF Team Leader.

‘JD found two Brendas, deceased in the last five years, within a four hundred mile radius of the diner. Got a pen?’

Chris fished in his pockets even as Malone held out a pen and paper towards him. He took both gratefully, tucking the phone into the crook of his neck as he took down the details.

‘The first one Brenda Marie Coombs, aged 3, died alongside her father and brother in a car accident six months ago. Mother Anne-Marie Coombs lives at 1253 Washington, Deep Falls. That’s two hundred miles North West of the diner. The second one, Brenda Tellagio, aged 5, died three years ago, of multiple stab wounds inflicted by her father, Alberto Pascal Tellagio, currently on Death Row at the State Penn. Her mother, also Brenda, lives in Hardington, at 73 West Avenue. She was an only child. Hardington is three hundred and forty miles due North of the diner. Both women drive dark colored sedans purchased in the last 18 months. We are still working on the eagle.’

‘Got it. We’ll split up and check them both out. Thanks Josiah. Tell JD he done good.’

‘Will do, brother.’

Chris turned to Jack indicating a sheltered alcove with a slight inclination of his head. Their squads followed.

‘Two possibilities. We need to split into two groups to check them both out.’ Malone nodded, scanning the information on the pad. Larabee gazed at his Undercover Agent. He was holding it together, probably too tightly. He was like a coiled spring. He exchanged speaking looks with his second in command. Standish needed watching. ‘Ezra you’re in my group, Vin, you’re with Malone. The rest of you split up evenly between us.’ He turned back to the Senior FBI Agent. ‘Jack, this is you’re jurisdiction. Can we get warrants?’

‘Yeah, no problem. Sam, organise that as we go. Let’s move.’

Chris and Ezra, along with Buck, Danny Taylor and Vivian Johnson, were to head to Deep Falls to check on Mrs Coombs. The rest, Jack Malone, Sam Spade, Martin Fitzgerald, Vin and Nathan headed towards Huntingdon.

Twenty-Six Hours Missing
Deep Falls

Following instructions from Sam, Danny approached the black and white patrol car stationed one block from the Coombs house. As he pulled up behind and cut the lights, two uniformed cops stepped out of the vehicle and approached.

‘Agent Larabee?’

Chris leaned over from the passenger side and flashed his badge at the Officer. ‘That’s me.’

‘We have the warrant, Sir. There has been no movement in or out since we arrived here a little under two hours ago. The house is occupied, though, and the lights are on. The area is surrounded by squad cars, at a distance as requested.’ He handed the warrant to the blonde ATF Agent. ‘Do you want us to remain where we are or close the net?’

‘Stay here. There are five of us already and we don’t want to spook her. We don’t know for sure that this woman is responsible for the kidnapping. Maintain the loose net but stay in radio contact.’ The cop nodded and he and his partner returned to their own vehicle, grateful to get out of the cold again.

Danny started the engine and pulled around the police car. He drove slowly up the street and stopped in front of the old house. There was no car in the driveway but the lights were on downstairs. They could see the flicker of a TV set in one of the windows.

‘Buck, you and Danny go round the back. Vivian, Ezra, with me. Ez, stay calm. We don’t know…’

‘Mr Larabee. I am nothing if not professional. Let us get this done.’ Chris nodded as Standish climbed out of the car and the others followed. Waiting until he was sure Wilmington and Taylor had had enough time to move into position at the rear of the house, Chris pressed the doorbell.

Within moments lights came on in the hallway. The door opened a crack, and the woman inside peered at them over the safety chain. ‘Yes?’

‘Mrs Coombs?’

‘Who are you?’

‘FBI Ma’am. Vivian handed the blonde her badge and she took it inside to see it clearly in the lighted entranceway.

‘What can I do for you?’ She passed the badge back to the FBI Agent.

‘May we come in Mrs Coombs?’ Larabee asked softly.

She seemed to consider that. ‘Okay.’ The crack was closed and they listened to the rattle of the chain being removed. The woman opened the door, holding it wide to allow them entrance.

‘Thank you.’ The woman led them into a comfortable living area and indicated they should take a seat.

The foursome gazed at each other in silence for a few moments.

‘Mrs Coombs, where is your car?’ The woman looked startled by the question.

‘In the shop. It’s having a major service, I do a lot of miles. Is there some problem with it?’

‘No. That isn’t what this is about. Mrs Coombs, where were you yesterday afternoon, about six o’clock?’

‘Here.’ Now the woman looked worried. ‘Can you tell me what this is about?’

‘I understand you lost your family recently Ma’am. I’m sorry for your loss.’

‘Ah, um, thank you.’ The woman looked at Ezra for the first time but there was no hint of recognition in her eyes. Larabee and Johnson noticed this, as did the Southerner. His heart sank. They were on a wild goose chase. If this woman had taken Rorie, the resemblance between them was marked enough that she would see it.

They still had to search the house to be sure.

Chris stepped in. ‘Mrs Coombs, yesterday afternoon a child, a little girl of four, was kidnapped from the Guggenheim museum. We managed to track her some distance from the city. She was seen in a diner south of here with a blonde woman, driving a dark sedan, who referred to her as ‘Brenda’. That isn’t her name. Our inquiries led us to you and another woman, also a bereaved mother of a ‘Brenda’.’

Anne Marie Coombs was very, very pale. ‘Oh god. It wasn’t me. You think I took that girl to replace my daughter? Nothing could replace my daughter. You vile man, you have no concept of what I have lost…’

‘Actually Ma’am I do. I lost my wife and only child a few years ago. My colleague,’ he nodded towards Ezra, ‘lost his only child… his daughter… yesterday afternoon at six o’clock.’ The woman gasped and placed her hand over her mouth, eyes filling with tears as she looked between the two men.

‘Oh god!’

The FBI Agent indicated the paper in Larabee’s hand. ‘We need to search the premises, Ma’am. To be certain. I am sure you had nothing to do with the little one’s disappearance but we have to do our jobs.’

Mrs Coombs reached forward and lightly touched Ezra’s hand. ‘I am so sorry. I swear I had nothing to do with it. Please, search all you want. I have nothing to hide.’

‘We’ll be careful, Ma’am.’

Summoning the pair guarding the rear door, the Agents quickly and efficiently searched the building and yard. It took an hour to be thorough, but by the time they took their leave, they were sure the child was not on the premises. A call to the mechanic had confirmed that the Dark Green sedan was indeed in the shop and a neighbour verified having a conversation with Mrs Coombs in the yard at around four thirty the previous day. There was no way this woman could have been in central New York City at six.

‘Thank you for your co-operation Mrs Coombs. I am sorry for causing you disruption and anxiety.’ The Southern ATF Agent smiled weakly at the homeowner as she watched them leave.

‘I hope you find her. Please let me know how it turns out.’ Chris nodded as he climbed into the car.

Ezra wondered how the other group were faring.

Twenty-Seven Hours Missing

Like the other team, there was a squad car waiting near the target’s house. Malone collected the warrant from the uniformed officers and they stood by the vehicles for a short while discussing tactics.

Inside the old clapboard, Brenda Tellagio was nervous. She’d noticed the squad car parked down the street when she’d emptied the trash. While she felt sure no one was trying to steal her daughter she was still edgy. When the second car arrived she watched through a darkened window as the officers talked with the new arrivals. She could see the movement of more people in the unmarked car and began to panic.

Running up the stairs she unlocked the door to the attic and then collected Brenda from her room. The child was obviously frightened and began to whimper.

‘Hush baby. Mommy’s gonna keep you safe. There are some bad men outside. I just want to keep you safe. You have to be safe.’ She pulled a reluctant Rorie towards the dark attic.

Rorie looked into the dimly lit, narrow attic stairway and baulked, trying to pull her arm away from the woman. ‘No!’

‘Just to be safe. You have to be safe, baby.’ When the child continued to struggle, the woman slapped her across the face. ‘Stop it Brenda! Mama will keep you safe.’ She pulled the shocked child up the dark stairs and shoved her into an empty trunk. She threw an old blanket over her and shut the lid. Rorie banged on the side of the wooden prison.

‘Stop it or you will regret it!’ She thumped the top of the chest. The banging ceased. As the woman closed and locked the door to the attic, there was a ring on the bell.

Jack Malone stood on the front step of the house, Vin Tanner and Sam Spade on either side.


‘Ma’am, sorry to disturb your evening. My name is Agent Jack Malone, with the FBI Missing Persons Bureau. These are my colleagues Agent Spade and Agent Tanner. May we come in?’

‘What is this about? The blonde woman looked suspiciously at them.

‘We just need to talk to you Mrs Tellagio.’ Sam’s voice was gentle, trying not to aggravate the woman.

‘I’m sorry but it’s late. Come back tomorrow.’ She made to close the door but the Texan sharpshooter was quicker. He shoved his foot into the doorway, forcing the door inwards.

‘What the Hell do you think you are doing? I’m calling my lawyer.’

‘We have a warrant, Mrs Tellagio, to search the premises.’ Jack nodded to the two Agents who moved off in different directions. Nathan and Martin appeared from the side of the house and joined the three already inside. They too moved off, upstairs, while Malone concentrated on the obstructive woman.

‘You can’t just some in here…’

‘Yes we can. We have a warrant to search the house. Mrs Tellagio where were you yesterday at 6pm?’

Brenda Tellagio’s eyes narrowed. ‘I’m not saying anything without my lawyer.’

‘Fine.’ Jack picked up the hallway phone and handed it to her. ‘Call.’

Tanner and Spade quickly cleared the downstairs and moved outside to thoroughly check the yard, garage and a series of dark sheds standing sentry outside against the rear perimeter wall.

Upstairs, Nathan and Martin were transfixed by the child’s bedroom. The bed was mussed and there was evidence of recent occupation. There were open storybooks lying on the bedside table, disturbing the accumulated dust, and when Nathan felt the bed beneath the blankets they felt warm to the touch rather than clammy, as they should have been if they had been unoccupied for years.

‘She’s been here, she can’t be far.’

‘Yep.’ Martin held up the small green jacket and jeans. ‘You recognise these?’ Nathan grabbed the jacket from the FBI Agent. He turned back the collar and smiled grimly, turning it towards Fitzgerald.

‘Aurora Standish.’ Martin read the embroidered label aloud. ‘My parents used to mark my clothes like that.’

‘Ez is nothing if not organised. So where is she?’

‘Not on this floor. We’ve cleared all the rooms.’ Jackson nodded and headed down the stairs. Malone and the now angry woman were still standing in the hallway. The front door stood gaping, letting in the cold blast of air from outside. He waved the Jacket at Malone who nodded.

‘Lady where the hell is my niece?’ The habitually soft-spoken medic was yelling.

The woman clammed up tighter, pressing her lips together and shaking her head. Tanner and Spade appeared in the open doorway. Nathan handed the jacket to Vin who took it and held it against his chest. He glared blue fire at the suspect. She glared at Nathan.

‘I have no idea what you mean. You are African American. I don’t even know any black children.’

‘She’s white. Now where is she?’

‘Don’t be ridiculous. How could YOU have a white niece?’ The woman’s tone was both insulting and snide.

Jackson took a threatening step forward. Malone intervened. ‘Jackson, Tanner, keep looking. Sam, stay with me.’ Reluctantly the two ATF Agents nodded. Martin Fitzgerald stuck his head over the banister.

‘Where are the keys for the attic?’ The woman shook her head.

‘No idea. I haven’t been up there for years. Not since my husband… left.’ Fitzgerald’s jaw tightened as he disappeared from view. There was a silence followed by the sound of splintering wood.

‘What the Hell are you doing? You break anything and I’ll sue your ass!’

Pushing aside the remains of the attic door Martin stepped through and peered up the stairs. He listened. Nothing. Jackson and Tanner materialized at his elbow. The three ascended together, cautiously. When they reached the top level they split up, peering into each nook and cranny.

‘RORIE!’ Tanner’s voice echoed in the cavernous space. The others, not expecting the cry, both jumped.

‘Jesus, Vin, warn a guy will you?’ Nathan clutched at his heart.

‘Hush.’ The FBI Agent held up a hand. They fell silent. There was a muffled thud from a dark corner near Fitzgerald. All three men approached.

‘Call again.’

‘RORIE, where are ya?’

The response was renewed thumping which they traced to a large sea chest backed against the wall. It was clipped shut but unlocked. Fitzgerald threw open the lid and tore off the squirming blanket.

A small tousled blonde with the damndest green eyes smiled at him and then frowned.

‘Uncle Vin, what did you do to your hair?’

By the time the group from Deep Falls arrived, at speed and with a screech of tyres, Rorie was asleep on the real Vin’s shoulder. He reluctantly handed his precious bundle to her father who hugged her tight and rained little kisses on the top of her head. She dozed on, secure and oblivious.

Chris stroked the child’s hair and grinned at a soft smiling Malone. ‘I guess you guys get this rush every time you re-unite a family.’

Jack Malone exchanged looks with his team. ‘Doesn’t happen nearly often enough. But yeah, it’s a good feeling.’ He accepted the hand held out and the two leaders shook.

‘Hell of a way to get the two agencies to work together. You boys always put on such a show?’ Wilmington slapped Fitzgerald on the back. The FBI Agent shrank away from the unwelcome familiarity. Buck grinned. Martin and Vin actually had more than just physical characteristics in common.

Taylor laughed at his partner’s discomfiture. ‘Yeah, well, we gotta get you yahoos to respect the senior agency somehow.’

‘Senior Agency?’ Tanner choked. ‘Since when have ya’ll bin the Senior Agency? Ya couldn’t have found this kid iffn she hadn’t written the note. And she’s an ATF kid.’

‘Her father was FBI when she was conceived. It obviously had some lingering effect.’ Sam Spade poked the Texan in the ribs. Much to Buck’s chagrin, despite repeated attempts to woo the blonde Agent Spade, she had shown a marked preference for the quiet Texan.

Tanner chuckled gleefully at the expression on the ladies man’s face. The embarrassment of the attention was worth it if it meant getting under Buck’s skin.

‘If you follow that logic, just think what you’d get if you crossed an FBI Agent with an ATF Agent!’

Chris and Jack exchanged horrified looks at Danny’s amused comment.

‘Oh no you don’t. On that note, it’s time to head home boys.’

Somewhere over Illinois
37,000 feet

Chris sat in his seat, between Vin in the aisle and Buck in the Window and listened to the Undercover Agent behind him arguing with JD. Rorie sat between them. Josiah and Nathan were behind them, fortunate to have an empty seat between them. The noisy trio in the middle row moved onto another subject.

‘Rorie you jacket must be too warm. Take it off.’

‘No. I’m okay like this.’

‘You will be cold when we get off.’

‘I want to keep it on.’

Chris’s mind went back to the last argument at the airport.

The five members of the Missing persons squad had arrived at the airport to see off their new friends.

Danny Taylor crouched in front of the small southerner. She smiled at him.

‘Yo Danny!’

‘Yo Tiny!’ Danny produced a bag from his pocket.

‘FAO Schwarz?’ Rorie accepted the bag and peered inside. Reaching in she pulled out a huge snowdome featuring the Statue of Liberty in a blizzard.

‘Wow! Is this for me?’

‘Yeah. Sorry you didn’t get to go choose something for yourself. Next time you come call me and I’ll make sure you get to go to the toy department. You think you can get hold of your Daddy’s credit card?’ He winked at her and she grinned.

‘Thanks Danny!’ Rorie gave him a hug, accidentally clocking him on the side of the head with the gift, and stepped back to shake the dome again. ‘I don’t think getting his wallet is going to be doable. He knows me too well and I don’t want to be grounded for the rest of my life.’ She glanced up at her father and smirked at the expression of reproof aimed at the FBI Agent.

‘I am appalled, Agent Taylor, that you are encouraging my daughter to become a pickpocket. And her assessment is correct, she would be grounded forever if she were to attempt to filch my wallet.’ He paused thoughtfully and then raised his brows at the imp. ‘Aurora?’

‘Yes Daddy?’ The look of supreme innocence, whilst endearing, just served to confirm his suspicions.

‘I would consider it very bad manners to steal anyone’s wallet.’ He stared icy green fire at her.

Rorie chuckled unrepentantly even as Danny asked, ‘Is there something going on here?’

‘Give it back. Now.’ Rorie assumed an air of injured innocence.

‘Want me ta frisk her Ez?’ Tanner came up behind the child and placed a hand on her shoulder. Rorie gulped loudly and turned to Danny.

‘Is this yours?’ She held out a worn black leather billfold to the FBI Agent who looked shocked. He accepted the return of his property.

‘All of it!’

‘Daddy, I’m getting there!’ She pulled out his FBI Badge and his watch. Danny looked at his bare wrist in astonishment before frowning at her. The rest of his team were greatly amused at his expense and he shrugged at them wryly.

She looked apologetic. ‘It was your suggestion.’

‘You’re a criminal in the making.’ Taylor climbed to his feet laughing. He slapped Ezra on the shoulder. ‘You’d better watch that one Standish.’ Ezra rolled his eyes, eloquently expressing ‘like I didn’t already know that!’ without making a sound.

They were finally settled on the flight and JD had elected to take the hot seat next to Rorie so they could play games together on his laptop computer.

Chris refocused on the argument behind him when Ezra let out an oath.

‘What the hell is that?’

Beside him Vin snorted. ‘Here we go.’ He peered between the seats, trying to see what was going on. Chris leaned around from the aisle and Josiah and Nathan’s faces appeared over the rear headrests. Everyone concentrated on the guilty face.


‘Aurora Standish, what have you got in your jacket?’ A stewardess approached.

‘Is there a problem Gentlemen?’ She looked around at the group. Buck’s head popped up as he knelt on his seat. Vin also got up for a better view.

‘Just a family argument, er,’ he glanced at her nametag, ‘Cindy. Our niece getting into trouble with her dad again, you know how children are.’ He sent her a wide smile which clearly said ‘I’m an Uncle and fond of children, trust me’.’ It didn’t work.

‘Fine. As long as everything is okay.’ She looked at the small child surrounded by hard looking men. ‘If I were you I’d come clean, kid. They don’t look like you want to mess with them.’ She winked and moved off to answer a call.


‘It’s nothing. I just want to stay warm. It’s nothing.’

‘You’re sweating. There is such a thing as being too warm and I saw your jacket move. What have you got in there?’

Rorie took on a mutinous expression.

‘Don’t make me ask you again. Last chance.’

Huffing with ill humor, the child unzipped her jacket. Ezra leapt to his feet and into the aisle, clipping his boss smartly across the face as he did so.

‘Oh Lord.’

A small pair of fluffy, elongated black ears appeared. They were followed by a cute face with dark beady eyes and a twitching nose.

‘A rabbit?’ Vin reached over and took the animal from the disappointed child.

‘A bunny Uncle Vin. He’s just a baby.’

Vin turned it upside down. ‘She.’

‘Oh. I guess I can’t call him… her… Fred then huh? How can you tell?’ Rorie stood on the seat and peered at the exposed underbelly of the bunny. Vin took a deep breath and turned the animal back up the right way. He breathed out slowly and looked at Nathan who grinned. The medic could see the blush spreading.

Josiah and Chris were both watching their Undercover Agent. His speed of twitching rivalled that of the unfortunate animal’s nose. They exchanged glances.


‘It… It’s... A RODENT!’ He sounded horrified. Everyone else focussed on him.

‘No Daddy. It’s a bunny.’

‘RODENT!’ Ezra was beginning to hyperventilate. Nathan looked concerned.

‘Breathe Ezra.’ He fished an airsickness bag from the seat pocket and filled it with air. He held it out to the southerner who glared at him.

‘I hate RODENTS. Get rid of it.’

Vin laughed. ‘Ya want I should open the door and let it go free? We’re at 37 thousand feet Ez!’

‘I don’t care. Make it go away.’ The southerner shuddered visibly.

‘Anybody got a black top hat handy?’ JD was laughing at Ezra’s expression of mixed fear and loathing.

‘Josiah, ask the stewardess if she has something to put it in until we land. I am sure this must be against regulations.’

Ezra backed up a step as Vin offered him the bunny. He was nearly on the lap of the man on the opposite side of the aisle. ‘Hey! Stay in your own space Asshole.’

Ignoring the swearing, despite the fact that he would normally attack anyone who uttered a dirty word near his daughter, Ezra escaped down the aisle towards the galley. ‘I’ll go.’

‘Well what do you know?’ JD started to laugh.

‘It would seem Ezra’s afraid of fluffy bunnies.’ Buck joined in.

‘Where’d ya git it?’ Vin frowned at Rorie as he stroked the rabbit who had all but burrowed under his arm.

‘From the mad lady’s house.’ Rorie smiled winningly at him. ‘She would have starved. Can I keep her?’

‘No.’ Ezra reappeared, standing well back and glaring at his daughter. She looked appealingly at the Texan. Vin shrugged.

‘Ya gotta do what ya Daddy says pumpkin.’ He grinned evilly. ‘However, I bin lookin’ fer a pet…’

‘Get a dog.’ Ezra clutched at straws. ‘Or a cat, or an alligator. Whatever. You are not keeping that ‘RODENT’ at my house.’

‘I was thinkin’ about the office. We could let it have the run o’ the place…’

‘Don’t even think about it.’ Twinkling blue eyes met fearful emerald. ‘All right Mr Tanner. What is it going to cost me?’

The others exchanged thoughtful looks.

‘Brother, you have no idea!’

The End

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