Stop the Press

by Sammie

0948 EST

"...and you'll need to keep this medication going for awhile to fight off the infection from those cuts," the doctor warned. "Your boy might be fine, but you'll take some work."

Mary nodded.

"The stiffness'll go away. I'll set up discharge papers for you and your son."

"Thank you, doctor."

"Have a nice day." The doctor smiled, nodded to Evie and Mary, and started to head out, nearly bumping into the two at the door. He waved them in genially.

"Mary?" Orin smiled. "You feeling okay?"

Mary nodded and smiled.

Billy scrambled onto the bed and wrapped his arms around his mother, hugging her for a moment. "Ma? I'm hungry."

Orin smiled as the everyone chuckled. "I'll head downstairs to the cafeteria." He headed out the door just as Vivian came in. "Agent Johnson."

"Judge." Vivian came in and smiled at the mother and the little boy wrapped tightly around her. "Mrs. Travis, Billy. Ms. Travis."

"Agent Johnson, I can't thank you enough," Mary started. "I...thank you. Thank you so much."

"It's just part of our job, ma'am." Vivian smiled gently. Her smile dropped just a little. "I...was hoping to speak to you alone?"

Mary and Evie looked at each other, and Evie took Billy's hand. "Let's go find your grandpa."

The two women watched as the little boy skipped alongside his grandmother and out the door.

Vivian turned back to Mary and smiled encouragingly as she sat down in a chair near the bed. She paused a moment to gather her thoughts before looking up at the other woman. "When we search for a missing person, we go through all their personal information to try to figure out who they are and where they might be."

Mary nodded. "I understand."

"We know that you found out some information on Stuart James about a month ago," Vivian gently pushed.

Mary dropped her eyes ever so briefly and then looked back up. "Yes."

"Mary, I'm not going to say that I understand what you were and what you are going through in relation to the death of your husband," Vivian said gently. "But it wasn't your fault."

Mary's eyes darted up, flashing fire. Vivian could see the pain the subject brought up. "Agent Johnson, I ask that you please do not patronize me," she replied tightly.

"Mary." Vivian handed her an envelope. "We had people scrounge up some information from our databases. Stuart James was out of those land deed cons a full two years before you began to research him, and he had only joined shortly beforehand. He was only in it five months before he decided that the men doing the business were too reckless and he backed out. There are records of phone calls to him after he broke off with them. He didn't even return those." Vivian paused. "Mary, your investigation into James had nothing to do with your husband's death. It wasn't James coming after you, and your husband being caught in the crossfire."

Mary pressed her lips together tightly, her chin trembling a little. Vivian tilted her head sideways to look at her. "Ms. Travis?"

Tearfilled green eyes looked at her. "Thank you."

1457 EST

" into the cab," Mary said quietly as she stroked Billy's hair. "I have no idea how that driver just managed to catch us at that time, but he did. He--he just started driving. I thought he might be going the wrong way, but he kept insisting that he was taking a shortcut. I realized he was trying to take us somewhere and was trying to figure out how I could safely get the door open and jump out with Billy."

Billy coughed a little. Mary adjusted her hold on him.

"I was trying to get the door open, but he'd put on those...childsafe locks or something that they have on those cars. I couldn't get out." Mary paused. "Couldn't figure out why they'd put those things on cabs, but whatever." She looked at Jack and Vivian. "Guess it wasn't a standard cab, anyway."

The two smiled a little. "Go on."

"I couldn't reach him, you know, not with that separater thing between us and him. Bit ways out of the city, he stopped. Couple other men showed up. They tied me up and blindfolded me, but at least they'd kept Billy with me that time. Put me in another car.

"I wanted to send a text message or something by my cell phone...maybe someone would get it, you know? But the buttons give off these loud beeps every time you hit them. At 10, it began to ring. Rang pretty quickly after that, too. I figured it was Orin and Evie." Mary smiled apologetically at her in-laws, who were sitting nearby with Chris, Josiah, and Nathan. "Right after that they pulled over, took my cell, and smashed it."



"Petrie wasn't a real relative," Martin replied, looking over the new report. "Changed his name same time Ella changed hers."

"And the others?"

"One of the guys at the house was the cab driver," Samantha supplied.

"They gonna talk?"

"They promised to tell everything we wanted to know." Danny shrugged. "I guess it doesn't matter much, now that she's gone."

"Thank the good Lord."

"Amen, brother."

"Well, my friends, I have little desire to remain here. Shall we go and see how Ms. Travis and young Master Travis are faring?"


"We...drove for awhile. I'm pretty sure we passed over a bridge, because I could hear sounded different when we were driving on it. We ended up at this house. They took Billy from me." Mary unconsciously wrapped her arms around her son even more tightly. "I...I was screaming, and he was screaming, and...." She stopped and looked pleadingly at the two agents.

"Ma'am, the doctor told us the same thing he told you," Vivian said reassuringly. "There was no sign of abuse whatsoever. He fared all right. Right, Billy?"

The mop of dirty blond hair nodded, and a little voice announced, "Once he brought me a Snickers bar."

Mary smiled tiredly and was silent for a moment. "When they unblindfolded me, I was in this room. It was where you found me, that room that looks like it's from colonial times."

Jack nodded. "Go on."

"They kept me tied up all day and night. They'd only untie me to let me go to the bathroom, and just my arms when I had to eat. At night they'd set my chair in the corner so I wouldn't fall over when I fell asleep." Mary paused. "She came up to see me Friday morning, right before the taping." She took a deep breath but stopped for a moment, unable to continue.

"Ms. Travis, if you want to do this some other time--"

Mary shook her head. "No, Agent Malone, I might as well do this now." She paused. "Told me that Chris was hers, you get the idea. I asked her to spare Billy, but I think that was just...naive." She shivered slightly. "Then she said that while it was definitely a secondary plan, she was willing to kill Chris if she couldn't have him."

Evie reached out and gently squeezed Mary's hand.

Mary smiled weakly. "That's it. You showed up the next day." She looked at the two FBI agents. "Is that what you need?"

Vivian looked at Jack, then back at Mary. "That's fine, Ms. Travis."

+ + + + + + +

"I can't wait to get this off. I can't believe I've been wearing these blasted extensions all day." Martin tugged at his "hair" as the agents stood in the elevator. It was starting to make him itch. Now he knew exactly why he kept his hair short.

"C'mon, Fitz, you know you like Vin's hair." Danny smirked. "Really."

"Ain't nothin' wrong with m'hair." Vin was insulted.

The elevator ding was lost in the ensuing laughter. They got off and continued through the hall.

"'Course nothing's wrong with your hair, Junior. It's the rest of the body parts." Buck laughed at his own joke.

"Hardy har. Y'think--"

"Actually, I think Agent Tanner's hair has been quite a hit," Samantha cut in, beginning to feel sorry for the much maligned sniper. "In reality, the girls in print and research like all of him, not just the hair."

Tanner blushed. Martin laughed.

Danny looked at Martin as they rounded the corner and headed into the bullpen. "You sure don't have his sense of shame."

Buck wasn't about to let this one go. "Aw Junior, looks like we'll make a man out--"

"Say it 'n I shoot ya, Buck."

"Now, now, Junior. Don't think those ladies would like their blushin' sniper to be so mean."

"I ain't anybody's sniper, and I don't blush!" he insisted as they moved into the bullpen.

"You're here!" From across the room came a little blur.

"Oof." Danny gasped for a moment, trying to catch his breath when the boy hit him full force. "Hey there, big guy."

"Ma was just tellin' Agent Malone and Agent Johnson all about the mean lady."

"That's good."

Billy was about to turn to the others when a surprised look crossed his face as he looked at Samantha. "How come you're wearing Ma's clothes?" He backpedaled. "Vin? Two Vins?"

"Thank God, no!" JD exclaimed and got a cuff upside his head.

Mary approached with the Travises and the two agents, her look of surprise mirroring Billy's. "I'm...Mary Travis. This is my son Billy. We're indebted to you for saving our lives."

"Just our job, ma'am," Martin replied genially.

"Samantha Spade." Samantha reached out her hand.

Mary shook it, still a little bewildered.

"We were set up as a decoy," Martin explained. "Samantha is just a shade shorter than you and some people seem to think I bear a bit of a resemblance to Agent Tanner."

Mary looked at the two and blinked. "Vin, you never said...."

"Didn't know, Miz Travis."

"It is...very uncanny." She laughed a little. "Agent--?" She put out her hand.

"Martin Fitzgerald." He shook her outstretched hand.

"Wow." She furrowed her brow a moment. "Are you sure you're not related?"

The two looked at each other. "Don't rightly know, Miz Travis," Vin replied. "Suppose we are, but ah, we hadn't much time ta look inta it after we met."

"Well, that will be just a small token of my appreciation to you both," Mary said decidedly.

"Ah, Miz Travis--" "Really, Ms. Travis, you needn't--"

Mary raised a single eyebrow at them. They shut up.

Danny shivered. He wondered if the guy in the Denver prison--and James?--were afraid of Larabee's reprisal or of Mary herself. Or maybe both.

1857 EST

Jack pushed the filing cabinet door closed and locked it. He turned out the lights in his office, took a long look at the dark room, and moved down the hall to the bullpen.

The women were sitting around the table, talking and having coffee. The Judge, Jackson, Sanchez, and Larabee were sitting nearby.

The more sensible ones were sitting nearby.

Wilmington, Dunne, Standish, Tanner, Martin, and Danny had decided that the bullpen was a good place for football.

Martin motioned for his mirror image to go deep as he skidded across the waxed floor. The other four gathered in between, watching him. A blue blur launched itself into the air and came down abruptly. Squawks of surprise and laughter were heard as Samantha landed on her feet, her hand clutching the once-airborne football and plopping it back on to her desk.

Everyone had heckled Martin mercilessly as he had his extensions removed, after which he and Samantha had changed into their regular clothes. Martin and Danny had pulled in some favors and had the bomber checked for prints and other powders and then drycleaned in a matter of hours. Jack knew they'd never admit it, but the delight on the little boy's face had made it all worthwhile. There were news conferences to deal with, and Orin had had to face camera after camera. Preliminary reports and confessions kept pouring into the office. By the time they were done, it had been dinnertime, and so they'd ordered food into the office.

The past few days had more than tried his sanity, but even he had to admit, it had been a fun ride.

He doubted it could be any other way with the ATF team from Denver.

Jack stepped into the bullpen and the agents greeted him with shouts. Larabee pulled out a chair and Jack dropped into it. He grabbed an unopened can of soda and popped it open, taking a drink.

"Aw c'mon, Samantha."

"My football."

"Getting a little possessive, aren't we?"

"You've ripped chunks out of the foam already!"

"I'll get ya another one." Martin looked pleadingly at her.

"Darlin', I'll get ya a whole truckload." Buck turned on the charm. "And anything else ya want. 'cludin' yers truly."

Samantha looked half-shocked and half-disgusted. "Excuse me, Agent Wilmington, if I decline that offer." She left them, moved back over to the table, and rejoined the conversation at the table.

Martin sighed in defeat and picked up his coffee mug.

"Buck, that's enough to retrigger my headache," Danny snorted.

"Buck, that's gross!" JD exclaimed.

"Buck!" Vin cuffed him upside the head. "Ya got a death wish or somethin'? Ya do that and Martin's gonna shoot ya!"

There was a long pause.

"Vin, I'm going to kill you and make it look like an accident."

"Mr. Tanner, I doubt Mr. Wilmington is the only one with a death wish."

"They really are brothers."

"Ma? I'm full." Billy smiled angelically at his mother, his plate still sporting a small pile of vegetables.

Mary Travis was made of sterner stuff. "Billy, finish your vegetables."

"But Ma, Buck says it ain't a good idea to eat too much."

Ears nearby perked up, the football forgotten, and listened in.

"Isn't a good idea, and no it isn't, but you have plenty of stomach."

"'Sides, thought Billy shouldn't be listening to Buck anymore," Tanner whispered to Martin. Martin choked on his coffee trying not to laugh. Tanner looked at him innocently. "Can't blame me. I didn't make the coffee."


"Ma and Buck are gonna have a little chat," Mary muttered and shot Buck a deadly glare.

"'Bout more things than overeating," Danny whispered, setting JD off into coughs as he tried to hide his laughter.

Jack watched Larabee turn his gaze to the agents, trying to figure out what was so funny. Much to their credit, they pulled on poker faces that would have fooled even Bret Maverick.

Maybe this wasn't a good thing.

Samantha exchanged looks with Vivian.

"There somethin' I should know, boys?" Larabee asked calmly.

"Nope," came the overeager chorus.

Billy looked pleadingly at this grandparents, who only shook their heads at him. He tried his last hope. "Chris?"

"Listen to yer ma, Billy."

Billy sighed and looked forlornly at the offending vegetables, then stuffed them into his mouth and chewed as fast as he could.

The door whished open.

"No interviews, no comment," Jack warned without looking up.

"Okay," came the little squeak and the sound of the door swinging shut.

Vivian's head shot up. "Jaaacck," she chastised and hurried out. "Come back here," she called down the hall.

"Uh, no really, it's okay. I...I can come back some other time."

He knew that voice, and she definitely wasn't a reporter.

Jack got up and headed to the door to find a figure standing several feet away at the other end of the hall--the slight teenager his team had dragged in the night before. "Come on in. I thought you were someone else."

Ray moved nervously back to follow the agents into the bullpen. She pushed her glasses up her nose.

"Ray," Samantha greeted.

"Well, well, speaking of the devil," Standish said under his breath. "Miss Barrett."

Ray's eyes darted from him to Samantha and then back. "Ma'am. Sir."

Billy turned around. "Hi! Ah'membah--"

"Billy, sweetheart, don't talk with your mouthful."

Billy chewed as fast as he could as Samantha introduced the teenager to the other agents and to the Travises. Mary got up and moved over, smiling warmly. "Eirene Barrett? We owe you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart."

Ray turned red. "Not really, ma'am, ah, Ms. Travis. I wasn't the one looking for you."

"Still." Mary smiled gently. "I know your information was pretty valuable."

"Well ma'am, if I'da...reported things when I should've, then--"

Mary shook her head. "You didn't know."

"Anyway, ma'am, I...ah...came to apologize," Ray said quietly. "Prayed all night you and your son would be all right. I'm...really sorry."

Mary shook her head. "No need for apologies. Only a thank you, from me and Billy."

Ray pulled a small package out of her coat pocket and held it out. "This is for you. Actually, for Billy," she said sheepishly.

Billy materialized beside his mother just as he swallowed his last bite. "Wow! You're the best," he announced. "Can I open it?"


"No, it's okay. It was meant for him." Ray handed him the present.

Billy ripped the paper off the box and opened the lid to find two small leather cowboy boots, each no more than three inches tall. The sides had little designs stitched neatly into the sides, and tiny little spurs spun when they were touched. "WOW!"

"They're just to put on the shelf or something," Ray muttered, a little embarrassed.



"Thanks a bunch!" Billy turned to the young woman, eyes full of delight.

"One's for you, and you can give the other to--your friend," Ray quickly corrected herself, her eyes darting up to see Chris Larabee sitting at the table. Her nervousness changed into devilish merriment. ", you know, the other person we talked about." She winked at the little boy, who grinned secretively.

Snickers turned into snorts and then full-blown laughter as the younger agents nearly fell over each other.

Ray looked as puzzled as the Travises did. Larabee looked suspiciously at them.

Vivian leaned over and whispered, "Let's just say that we were there when you were questioned. Including your infamous Buck."

Ray turned slowly, her eyes wide. "Uh oh."

"You boys wanna share what's so funny?"

"Mebbe if'n ya hand over yer gun first, cowboy."

Billy bounced back to the table, leading his mother by one hand, his gift in the other.

Samantha smiled at Ray. "Drink?"

"Water's fine, thanks."

Samantha snitched a bottle from the table and handed it to Ray, who took a few sips. "You'll be getting another job?"

"Yeah. Hopefully somewhere where my boss won't kidnap women and little children."

Samantha smiled. "There's an opening downstairs in the print room."

Ray turned to look at her, delighted surprise written all over her face.

"You'll have to apply."

"I don't mind."

Samantha smiled. "I'll tell them to send you an application."

"Do you have my ad--" Ray chuckled. "Yeah, you do."

Samantha laughed.

"Listen, I...I gotta go. I just came by to leave that for Billy. Thanks for telling me about the application."

Samantha nodded. "Hope to see you soon." Samantha saw her first genuine smile ever from Ray as she waved and quietly left the room.

Martin sauntered up and nodded at the swinging door. "She okay?"

"Yeah. She's going to get another job."

"Too bad about that shop."

Samantha turned, a teasing look in her eye. "Don't tell me that's a hint of sympathy I hear. And from you?"

Martin shrugged. "Can't fault a kid for not mooching off her parents. 'Sides...I guess she wasn't that bad."


Jack hurried through the automatic doors into the airport. The team and the Travises were leaving in less than half an hour. The rest of his team was already there.

Jackson was at the one station, hugging his large orange medical kit to his chest protectively. Wilmington was attempting to charm the attendant into allowing the medic to take the oversized kit on board as a carryon. Standish was sitting next to a pile of carryons, his arm draped protectively over them as he dozed. Larabee, Sanchez, Vivian, and Samantha were talking with the Travises.

Vin swung Billy into the air and the boy caught the balled up hat they were throwing around. Billy threw as hard as he could, but it ended up in the arms of Vivian's son, Reggie. Danny tickled him until he gave up the hat, only to have JD swoop down and throw an easy pass to Martin.

Jack turned and headed over to those still sitting. "Afternoon," he greeted with a trace smile.

"Whew." Martin leaned over, hands on his knees, to catch his breath.

"Gettin' creaky in yer old age?" Vin clapped him on the back as he strolled by.

"Ha ha." Martin headed over to the water fountain and took a drink before joining his twin in the waiting area.

"Been an interestin' trip."

"Wish we could've met under better circumstances."

"Doubt we woulda met at all i'tweren't for this."

They sat in silence for awhile.

"Was always an only child. It'll be interesting, what Ms. Travis finds. Always wanted a brother," Martin tried tentatively, looking at the ATF agent out of the corner of his eye.

"Suppose." There was a long silence and Martin worried that he'd pushed Vin too much. He had to admit he'd gotten to like the sniper, despite their differences, and wouldn't have minded in the least to have him as a brother. He hoped he hadn't pushed too hard.... Vin's next words cut through this thoughts to reassure him. "Ya bring Danny out with ya ta Denver sometime, and we'll show ya a good time."

Martin turned a bit to see the grin on Vin's face. "You mean what I missed last time?"


"I think I'll skip the visit to a ranch."

"Aw c'mon, pard. Ya miss visitin' Chris's ranch, ya might miss Billy's little brother." Vin's eyes twinkled.

Martin laughed outright. "You aren't going to be alive for me to visit."

0921 EST, 0721 MST

"Vin," Josiah greeted the sniper who had just entered the kitchen.

"'siah." Vin poured himself a cup of coffee.

"Heard Mary found some stuff for ya."

"Yep. But me and Martin already guessed we were brothers. Just a confirmation, I guess." Vin peeked out the door.

"I'm sure she'll find more."

"Yep." Vin stuck his head a little further out the door before hastily retreating back inside.

"Bit itchy today, aren't you, brother?"


"Why's that?"

Vin's eyes danced. "Me n' Ez got a tape of Ray Barrett's session with Samantha n' Martin. JD did some of his fancy 'puter stuff with it and set up Chris's 'puter so that it would play her session soon as it booted up." He grinned.

Josiah shook his head and tried not to smile.

"Chris just went inta his office 'bout half-hour ago." Vin again peeked out the door to the kitchenette. "'ere comes the cowboy."

The door to Chris's office crashed open. "BUCK WILMINGTON, I'M GONNA KILL YOU!"

SAME TIME (0921 EST, 0721 MST)

"Your reports, Agent Fitzgerald."

"Go ahead and put 'em right over there. I'll be with you in a minute." Martin typed in the last name, watched as the record popped up, and quickly saved it. He turned to help the print room worker.

Ray grinned. "Morning."

'I've died and gone to hell.' "Ray," Martin said as calmly as he could.

"Your reports are right over there. Gotta run. Agent Allen two floors down wanted some stuff too, and I gotta go to class. Bye!"

Martin stared in stunned dismay as the student blew out of the bullpen, whistling.

Hell had no horror for him like this.

"Martin, listen to this. That guy in the park who--" Samantha abruptly stopped her trip across the bullpen. "You okay?"

Martin snapped his head up. "Yeah."

"Looked a little out of it." Samantha paused, waiting for him to speak. "Is everything okay with Vin?" she tried.

"Yeah, yeah." Martin stepped over to the table and began to flip through the papers Ray had just brought up.

Samantha walked over concernedly. "Martin, what's going on?"

Martin stopped flipping through the pages for a moment and stared down at the reports before looking up at Samantha. "Did you know Eirene Barrett is working in print?"

"That's what's bothering you?" Samantha's worried expression changed into one of amusement. "Why didn't you just say it? Yeah, I suggested she apply."

"You? Thanks a lot."

Samantha chuckled. "Kid needed a job, considering how her, ah, place of employment won't be doing any employing for awhile. I suggested she come here." She got a wicked glint in her eye. "Thought you said she wasn't that bad."

Martin glared. "But here?! That girl's snarkiness will kill me before anything else does."

Samantha shrugged, her eyes laughing at him.

Martin looked miffed. At least this case was going right, if nothing else in his life was.

"You have got to take a look at this," Danny gasped out between laughs as he burst in. He threw himself into the nearest computer desk chair, rolled up to the desk, and quickly typed in the address for the New York FBI. When the page popped up he scrolled down and clicked on a little link flashing at the bottom.

The page loaded quickly, much to Martin's dismay.

There was a huge picture of him, dressed like Vin--just without the hair, frowning at the mirror. Danny was standing right behind him, a cloth measuring tape around his neck, his sleeves rolled up, pretending to lend his "critical eye" to his teammate's appearance.... There was, of course, his trademark satisfied smirk.

Samantha successfully choked back the first laugh.

Danny scrolled a little bit more. The caption for the photo read, "New York's own city slicker."

The three leaned in closer to the screen to read the tiny print at the bottom of the page. "From the best in the West. Remember, you said you always wanted a brother!"

Samantha lost it.

"They're so dead."

"Well, you have to admit Vin did a nice job," Samantha chuckled. "The picture's clear and bright and it's up on the server."

Martin shot her a deadly glare. "He had to have had help. ... Dunne. They're dead men!"

Danny smirked. "Well I don't know, Fitz, but the ladies all over the building are talking about it. Might be a good thing." Laughing, he held up a printed version of the page with comments on it.

"So funny, Danny," Martin said sarcastically. "Give me that." He snatched it out of Danny's hands. This day was going down the drain. "Security'll take down the page," he said, hoping he sounded more confident than he felt.

"Nah. They said they were gonna leave it for a few days. You can only access it from the FBI server anyway."

"Only." Martin got up and stomped off towards the door. "I'm going to kill those yahoos and make it look like an accident."

"Martin?" Danny called after him as he winked at Samantha. "Does this mean you're not going to visit Vin in June?"


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