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Fat chance of that, Josiah, the ladies man said as he hung up the phone. He ran his fingers through his hair and cupped his chin before dialing Travis emergency number.
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Rudy Marshall pulled out his cell phone and dialed his employers number. He waited for the call to be accepted and smiled when Harringtons nervous voice came over the line.
Mr. Harrington, the goods have been collected and the deposit made. Ill get back to you as soon as the results are in.
You didnt hurt him, did you?
The boy is fine and will remain so, but I cant say the same for his father, Marshall said smiling as Linden cracked his knuckles.
I dont give a damn about Larabee, but I dont want...
The boy hurt. Relax, Mr. Harrington, the boy wont be hurt. Marshall hung up the phone and moved to the table.
Are you really going to let them go once were finished? Linden asked.
Well now the way I see it is that we cant let them go. After all theyve seen our faces.
So what do we do with them once we find out where the journal is?
Kill them of course.
Wont Harrington be upset?
Probably, but well have the journal and well just continue where Ray Tanner left off. Well blackmail Harrington and make damn sure he cant do anything to us, Marshall said.
Sounds like a plan to me. When do we start on Larabee?
Patience, Gregory, we have plenty of time and Mr. Larabee will need to be rested up for the upcoming games, the smaller man said, smiling as he picked up a scalpel and let the battery operated lamp shine off the razor sharp edge. Plenty of time to make young Tanner talk and Larabee bleed.
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Cold seemed to surround him except where something was cuddled up against his chest. He groaned and licked at dry lips before opening his eyes and breathing in the familiar scent of the child he was raising as his own. The boy was sleeping, but he seemed to be in the throes of another nightmare as a small whimper escaped the slack lips. He kept his body tight against the sleeping child as the pounding in his skull picked up its pace.
Nnnnoooo, p please d daddy dont hurt mama!
The words were whispered against his chest as small hands came up and began hitting him. Chris knew he had to wake Vin up and wished he could wrap him in his arms, but with his wrists cuffed behind him that was not possible.
Vin, its a dream, Cowboy. No ones going to hurt you, Larabee tried and was rewarded when the scruffy head lifted and blue eyes met his.
Thats right, Vin, its me.
Not a dream? Vin asked as tears formed in his eyes.
No, Son, its not, but well get out of here, Larabee assured him as he struggled to sit up. He noticed the coat that covered his upper body and smiled at the child. Thanks, Cowboy, but I think you need to put your coat on.
O okay, Chris Is scared.
Me too, Pard, but were together and well get out of here together. Okay?
K, Vin said as he struggled into his coat. He breathed in the scent of the older mans aftershave and felt some of the terror leave him. He lay down beside the bound man once more and fought back the tears.
Vin, I want you to promise me something, Larabee whispered against the top of his sons head. He knew the little boy was trying to be strong and also knew the fear that enshrouded his own heart. The fact that they had both seen their captors did not bode well for them and he knew their captors would not allow them to go free.
If you get the chance to escape
Aint leavin ya, Chris!
Vin, you have to. If Before he could finish his thoughts the door was opened spilling the bright beam of a flashlight into the basement.
Well now isnt that just cozy? Marshall said as he descended the stairs.
Chris reacted instinctively and shifted his body until he covered the child. He blinked rapidly until the light was moved from his eyes.
What the hell do you want? he asked, anger evident in his tone.
Well, Mr. Larabee, there is some information we need and your son is the only one who can provide us with what we need. Now, Vin, kindly move away from Mr. Larabee.
N no, Vin stammered as he clung to the bound arms.
Dont you touch him, Larabee spat, shifting his body into an upright position.
Marshall stood at the bottom of the stairs and waited until Linden joined him. He smiled down at the blond and made a move to grab for the boy.
Ill kill you before you can hurt him!
Oh, were not going to hurt Vin, Mr. Larabee. You see he has the information we want tucked inside that little mind of his and, therefore, we cant take the chance of really hurting him. You, however, are a means to an end. You see little Vin there will either give me what I want or Gregory is going to use his expertise on you. So, Vin. He looked around the ATF agent and smiled at the frightened child. Are you going to answer my questions or does Gregory get to play a little one on one with your father? Your choice, Son!
He doesnt know anything! Larabee tried as Linden moved to pull Vin from him. Leave him alone!
CHRIS! Vin screamed as the big man grabbed his arms and tore him away from the safety of Larabees body.
Chris heard Vins cry of fear and struggled to his feet. He kicked out at Marshall, his booted foot connecting with the mans stomach and sending him crashing into several empty boxes. Chris pressed his advantage until he heard the sharp cry of pain from his son. He turned to see Gregory with his arm wrapped around the boys neck.
Ill snap it if you dont get down on your knees, Larabee!
Chris saw Vins weakening struggles and knew the boy needed air. Reluctantly he sank to his knees and glared green fire at the man before him. He felt Marshall move in behind him, but his attention was on his son as the big man released his hold.
Vins eyes grew wide as he was dropped to the floor. He tried to scream out a warning, but there was still not enough air in his lungs and it came out as a weak gasp. Chrissssssss!
Larabee heard the movement behind him, but before he could react something slammed into his right arm and he bit back a cry of pain as his body toppled to the left. White-hot shards of fire engulfed his shoulder and he tried to move away as the crowbar was lifted once more. This time it caught his left leg and again he screamed as the fire ignited there. He could hear two sounds, one a childs screams and the other a mans laughter. Using his shoulders he scooted across the floor as his adoptive son raced towards him. A third sound entered his mind and he realized it was coming from his own throat as he fought the waves of nausea that threatened to engulf him.
Chris Chris Chris! Vin repeated over and over as he wrapped his arms around the writhing blond, rocking his little body back and forth as tears threatened to fall.
Now, Son, how about answering some questions for me?
I I d dont
L leave him, leave him a alone, Larabee finally managed to grind out.
Gregory, would you stop Mr. Larabee from interrupting my chat with Vin here?
My pleasure, Rudy, Linden said, drawing back his foot and delivering a telling blow to the ATF agents lower back.
NO! Vin screamed as a muted cry of pain escaped his fathers throat.
I meant with a gag, Gregory, Marshall explained, shaking his head at his enthusiastic partner.
Oh, sorry, well this seemed to work faster, Linden said with a grin.
Yes, effective too. Now, Vin, the smooth talking man said as he reached for the boys arm, Are you willing to answer my questions?
I d dont know nuttin, the boy cried as he listened to the ragged breathing from the blond.
Oh you know plenty, dear boy, its just a matter of finding the key to unlocking whats inside here! Marshall said, tapping the childs head once before Vin pulled away. And all it takes is for you to think about it.
Bout w what? Vin asked.
About your mother
Thats right and your daddy too. See your daddy gave your mama something to hold on to and theres only one person who knows where that item is. Thats you, Vin, and I want you to share that information with me. Marshal reached into his pocket and pulled out the switchblade, smiling as terror shone in the blue orbs.
Chris could hear the mans voice droning on, but his mind was concentrating on the burning pain in his lower back. The pain in his left leg had eased somewhat but his arm throbbed resoundingly because of the position hed been cuffed in. Shifting slightly he made sure he was between his captor and the trembling boy. He lifted his gaze and glared green fire at the man before him.
Let him go and I...Ill help you find whatever it is youre looking for! Larabee tried as his fears for his sons life intensified.
Sorry, Mr. Larabee, but thats not the way of things. Your only role in this is to be quiet and take whatever Gregory or myself decide to do. For instance at any time I could simply do this! His hand slashed forward and something sharp bit into the jacket Larabee wore.
Chris gasped as the knife cut into his right side. He knew the heavy jacket had stopped the blade from making a killing blow, but the sharp pain also warned that the knife had cut a furrow along his side. He heard Vin cry out and felt the boy jump over him and stand before their captor.
Dontcha touch im no more! Vin screamed as he struck out at the bigger man. His hands were caught from behind and Gregory held him tight against his chest.
L let him go! The blond warned and turn onto his back before striking out at Linden. His foot connected with the mans ankle, but it did little to affect the way he held the child.
Quite the temper your son has, Mr. Larabee, but Im sure well be able to dampen it quite a bit before long. Now, Vin, you can save your father a lot of unnecessary pain if you just tell me where your daddys journal is.
J...journal? the boy asked, frowning as the man used his finger and thumb to wipe the blood from the blade.
Thats right, Marshall smiled as the light from the flashlight caught the boys eyes. Thats right, Son, you do know what a journal is dont you, Vin?
Uhuh, the boy answered, watching as the tip of the blade was placed under his fathers chin.
Its a book that people write important things in so they dont forget them. Now I know your daddy had a journal that didnt belong to him and I also know that he gave it to your mama to hold on to. See, your daddy and me spent some time together in jail before he died and he said you were the only one alive who could tell him the journals location. Now, I really do need the information on those pages and so Im going to give you a little time to think about its location. When Gregory and I come back youd better have the answers I want or Mr. Larabee will suffer for your forgetfulness. Do you understand?
Vin nodded his head and watched as a single droplet of Larabees blood formed on the tip of the blade and slowly slid down towards the hated mans hand. He swallowed back the fear and lifted his blue eyes until they met Marshalls cold orbs.
Now, Vin, youre a smart boy and I know you wont do anything stupid. Im going to give you an hour to think about what Ive said and then were going to get down to some serious questions and I do hope you have the right answers. Mr. Larabee, I would advise you to rest while you can because Gregory is very good at what he does.
G...go to h...hell! Larabee exclaimed as the blade was removed and he dropped the rest of the way to the floor.
Perhaps some day I will do just that, but for now Ill simply enjoy putting you there. Come, Gregory, for some reason question and answer periods always make me hungry. Marshall smiled as he stood up and Linden released the child. He watched as the boy reached his father and clung to him for dear life, before he turned and walked up the stairs.
C...Chris, Vin called as he tried to read Larabees face.
I...Im okay, Vin. J...just give me a m...minute. The ATF agent assured the boy as he finally managed to get the pain and nausea under control.
Is s...sorry, Chris...
Hey, slugger, hold on there! You have nothing t...to be sorry for, Larabee said as he tried to maneuver himself into a sitting position. He couldnt help but smile as the boy clung to his left arm and tried to help him up.
Think y...you can make it to the b...bed? Vin stammered and saw the big man nod as they struggled to their feet.
Chris hopped towards the mattress Vin called a bed and sank gratefully onto the softer surface. He smiled in spite of the pain and wished he could hug his son, but his arms were still secured behind his back.
Vin, he waited for the boy to look at him and cursed inwardly at the guilt hidden in the sad blue eyes before the head dropped back down. Come on, Son, look at me.
I c...cant, Chris, m...my fault...
No, its not, son, look at me! Larabee said with a little more force until the shaggy head lifted once more and blue eyes met green. None of this is your fault, Vin. Youre not to blame for whatever your father did and youre certainly not to blame for whatever is in the journal. These men arent doing this because of you. Theyre doing this because they want whatever is in that journal. Do you know where it is?
N...no, Chris and theys gonna hurtcha cause of me!
Not because of you, Son, but because they want what doesnt belong to them. Whatever happens you have to believe what Im saying, because if you dont then whatever happens is going to be on my conscience for the rest of my life. I need you to get away...
No cant leave ya!
Listen to me, Vin. Im not asking you to leave me! Larabee assured him. Im asking you to get help. I dont know how bad my knee is, but I dont think Ill be able to walk very far so I have to rely on your courage to get help when the time comes. Do you think you can do that for me, Son?
I...Ill try, Chris, but how a...are we gonna get out of here?
Well, first thing we need to do is search for a window. If its big enough maybe we can both escape, but if its not itll be up to you to get help, Vin! Larabee knew the boy would not survive long in the cold, but he also knew Vin Tanner would die at the hands of the two men once they found the location of the journal.
O...okay, the boy said and picked up the light.
W...where s...should I start?
Try the wall in front of us, Larabee ordered and watched the retreating form. He leaned his head back against the wall and realized he shouldve had Vin help him with the wound in his side, but right now he wanted to know if there was a means of escape before their captors returned. He knew the wound was still bleeding, but it had slowed some with the advancing cold. He looked up as Vin returned and smiled as the child covered him with the blanket. Thanks, Son!
Welcome, Vin said, pulling his jacket closer around himself before going in search of a window once more.
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Josiah watched as the police and FBI agents combed the area surrounding the truck. So far theyd come up empty and he knew the snow was wreaking havoc with the investigation. So far the only object theyd found was a broken syringe and it had already been sent to the lab for analysis. He heard the sound of an approaching vehicle and looked up as Jacksons familiar four-wheel drive suburban pulled in behind his Cherokee. The profiler hurried towards them as the two men exited the rig.
Anything new, Josiah? Jackson asked.
This damn storm is making it hard to find anything! Jeff Wilkins from team three found a syringe near the truck, but thats about all theyve uncovered.
Any idea as to what substance was inside the syringe? Standish asked as he pulled on a pair of gloves.
No, but its on its way to the lab as we speak.
Have you talked with Buck since you called us? the medic asked.
I spoke with him a few minutes ago. JDs sleeping right now, but Bucks a nervous wreck. He wants to be here, but I told him theres not much we can do right now and JDs going to need him when he wakes up, Sanchez explained as two members of team three continued to go over the interior of the truck with a fine tooth comb.
I called Travis and told him whats happening and hes putting a priority on this, Jackson told Sanchez.
Good, Sanchez said, shaking his head at the helplessness he felt at the situation.
Was Chris working on anything new that could warrant his disappearance? Standish asked.
I dont think so. Everything our teams been working on has passed through our desks several times. There are only three cases that are still under investigation and I asked Buck to look into those on his home computer, Sanchez explained.
Maybe it has something to do with the upcoming trial, Standish suggested.
Could be, but so far none of my snitches has anything new on that one. It seems Enrique Ramirez has decided not to follow through on that contract on Chris. I believe his superiors were adamant that he take the fall for what he brought on their family name, Jackson told them as they made their way towards the truck.
Anything, Jeff? Sanchez asked?
Got plenty of prints off the interior and one partial off the passenger side door, the silver haired agent answered.
Chris had the outside washed yesterday, Jackson explained about the lack of prints on the outside.
So this could possibly be his or...
Or whoever took him and Vin, Sanchez finished.
Theres nothing that points to kidnapping, Josiah, Jeff explained.
What about the syringe? Standish asked.
We dont know if that was used on either Chris or Vin. It couldve been thrown out of a car by some junkie...
I dont think so, Jeff. Its too much of a coincidence that it was found close to Chris truck, Jackson said as they watched the second agent drop several small items into evidence bags before tagging them.
I think youre probably right, Nathan, but we have to look at this from every angle. Why dont you boys go out to the ranch and well call as soon as we have some definitive answers, Jeff suggested.
Not on your life, Jeff. This is our team leader and his son were talking about and until this scene has been gone over with a fine tooth comb were not leaving, Sanchez vowed and watched as the team continued to investigate the truck and surrounding area.
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Buck glanced at the sleeping boy and hoped hed stay that way until they had some good news to tell him or Chris and Vin walked through the door. Somehow he knew the latter would not happen anytime soon. He looked at the small nativity scene lovingly created by the two boys at an arts and crafts show at the Cherry Creek Shopping Center the day before. The boys were so proud of the way theyd colored, Mary, Joseph and the Baby Jesus and had set them into the straw filled box. The three wise men were on their knees in front of the manger and each held a gift for the baby. He smiled as he looked at the gifts and knew theyd come from the little boys hearts. Instead of the usual gifts there were toys for the baby to play with and a blanket to keep warm. He knew JD had placed the small horse next to one of the wise men, while Vin placed a little red wagon and a blanket next to the other two. His eyes shone with unshed moisture as he looked at the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes.
Please, bring them home safe, he silently prayed before looking out into the storm once more.
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Chris! the childs voice was low, but Chris heard the excitement as Vin returned to sit beside him.
Did you find something, Vin? Larabee asked, pushing himself into a sitting position once more. His left knee had swollen and stiffened up in the short time the boy had been searching the basement and Chris bit back a cry of pain as he adjusted his lower body.
I saw a window, Chris, but its high and I cant reach it...
Thats okay, Son, Larabee assured him. Where is it?
Behind those boxes, but it's not very big! the boy said, his eyes round as saucers in the meager light.
Thats okay, Vin, all we need to do is get you... Before the ATF agent could finish his thoughts the door to the basement opened and two sets of footsteps could be heard as they descended into the basement. A bright circle of light soon engulfed them and he couldnt help but feel a sense of pride as Vin moved to protect him.
Well, how sweet. Are you setting yourself up as Mr. Larabees champion, young Vin? Marshall laughed as the small child glared up at him, his hands fisted at his side.
Dontcha touch im! Vin warned as the second captor moved towards them.
You know how to stop this, Vin, Marshall said, reaching for the boy as Gregory grabbed Larabee by the arms and pulled him into a standing position.
You want him upstairs, Rudy? Linden asked.
Of course, I do abhor staying longer than a few minutes in this squalor and well, I have plans for Mr. Larabee and young Vin here. He pulled the boy away from the ATF agent and smiled as he whispered in the childs ear. Fight me and Ill have Gregory break your fathers arm right now! Understand?
Y...yeah, the boy said and ceased his struggles.
Now, Mr. Larabee, the same goes for you! If you dont come upstairs under your own steam then you leave me no recourse but to break this young mans arm or leg or anything else I have a mind too. Understood?
Ill kill you for this, Rudy! Larabee vowed as he limped towards the stairs.
Im sure youd like to try, Marshall said pulling the boy up into the light as Linden shoved his prisoner forward.
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Frustrated, tired, and half frozen the three ATF agents made their way towards their respective cars and knew their was nothing more to be done until the results of the findings were delivered to them. Travis had told them he would make sure the information was forwarded to the ranch as soon as it was made known to him. The snow had finally stopped and the truck was being towed back to headquarters so it could be gone over again by a team of experts.
Josiah, well see you at the ranch, Jackson said as he climbed in behind the steering wheel.
All right, Nathan, Ill be there as soon as everythings wrapped up here. Tell Buck Jeffs team did a good job.
Certainly, Mr. Sanchez. Ill make sure theres plenty of coffee on hand, Standish agreed as he climbed into the suburban and Jackson turned on the heat.
Sounds good, Ezra. Be careful, Nathan, the roads are still icy.
I will, Josiah, dont stay here too long, the medic warned as he drove away.
Sanchez stood for several moments, watching as the remaining police officers continued to comb the area for evidence. He knew theyd already checked the surroundings several times and understood they were doing this because not only was Larabee a fellow law enforcement officer, but because there was a child involved as well. Two of the worst case scenarios and they affected everyone involved.
Josiah, why dont you go on up to the ranch. Ill make sure you get copies of all the reports, Wilkins assured him.
Are you boys done here?
Yes, we are. Theres nothing more we can do. The snow has already covered any of the tracks that might have been left by an assailants car. The only footprints are our own and until we get the results back theres not much more we can do.
I know, Jeff, but I think Ill take one more look around.
You want me to stay?
No. Thanks anyway, Jeff, but sometimes its easier to think things through when Im alone, the profiler explained and nodded his thanks before moving towards the site where the truck had been. The emptiness he felt inside surrounded him as the last of the officers left the scene. His eyes panned the area, hoping and praying hed see something that would give him some clue as to where Chris Larabee and Vin Tanner were.
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Chris winced as his wrists were released and his right arm dropped uselessly by his side, pain radiating from his elbow to his shoulder. He wanted to strike out at the smug man standing eight feet in front of him, but the blade at his sons throat made him think twice about it.
Remove your jacket, Mr. Larabee! Marshall ordered, gesturing with his knife towards Vins throat.
Chris clenched his teeth as he was forced to remove his outer jacket and stood facing the man once more. It wasnt long before he found himself shoved up against a wall devoid of any decoration except a set of cuffs locked around a heavy-duty meat hook.
All right, Mr. Larabee, if you would be so kind as to attach one manacle to your left wrist we can get on with this session. Marshall watched as several emotions warred for dominance on the handsome features and smiled in spite of the seething hatred he saw there. Times wasting, Mr. Larabee.
Chris knew he had no choice as he placed his left hand into the cuff and felt Linden snap it tightly around his wrist. He bit back a cry of pain as his right arm was grabbed and jerked sharply upwards and the second cuff was locked in place. He faced his nemesis, cold hatred building to a burning desire to see this man torn limb from limb.
Very good, Marshall said releasing the boy and forcing him to sit on a broken chair. Now, Vin, Im going to ask you this once more and if I dont get the right answer, well, your father will pay the price! Where is the journal?
I...I dont k...know, Vin stammered and tried to pull away as Gregory moved to stand in front of the handcuffed prisoner. He watched, as if in slow motion, as the big mans hand formed a fist and was aimed to strike at Larabee.
NO! he screamed and renewed his efforts to get free as the blow landed to the ATF agents midsection.
Chris readied himself for the blow he knew was coming, but was still not fully prepared when the huge fist slammed into his gut. The air escaped his lungs in an agonizing sound that bespoke of a great deal of pain. Before Chris had a chance to regain a semblance of equilibrium a second fist landed to the right of the first, a third and fourth following in rapid succession until he hung by his arms from the hook and tried to breathe past the pain. He heard Vin cry out again and again and lifted his head until he met the moisture laden blue orbs.
Stay strong, Vin, he sent through the strong connection he had with the boy and saw a small nod before his attention was pulled back to the man standing before him. A fist connected with the right side of his face and his head was rocked back and connected solidly with the wall behind him. He saw stars, but continued to hold on to consciousness as again and again Gregorys fist slammed into his body. He could hear the other man speaking to Vin, but he did not have the strength to decipher the words. Chris lifted his head once more and felt blood run from several cuts on his face and forehead. He looked towards the boy and tried to feel the connection, but all he felt was the childs agonizing fears and he knew this was as hard on the child as it was on him.
Im sorry, Vin, he thought as unconsciousness finally claimed a victory and drew him into the waiting abyss.
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Buck looked up from the computer as the door opened and Jackson and Sanchez entered. The two men dusted the snow off their boots before removing them and reaching for the shoes they kept on hand.
Coffees hot and strong, Wilmington called as they hung up their coats.
Did you make it? Jackson asked.
Well, it wasnt JD! the weary man snapped, apologizing immediately as he realized what hed said.
Wheres young master Dunne? Standish asked as the medic headed for the kitchen.
Hes still sleeping. I called Mrs. Wells and asked if she could come out and keep an eye on him while we search for Chris and Vin, Wilmington explained.
I take it theres still no word? the gambler said, a statement rather than a question.
Nothing. Not a damned thing since Josiah called. Where is he anyway?
Hes trying to see what he can find out at the scene. Jeffs team was very thorough and what little evidence they found is probably at the lab, but you know Josiah and his tendency to trust in his own instincts.
Jeffs good, but he doesnt have Josiahs knack for picking up on things, Wilmington said as Jackson returned with three cups of coffee.
So, is Mrs. Wells coming over? the medic asked.
Yes, she should be here sometime around lunch. He turned to the door as a pajama-clad boy entered the room. One hand clutched tightly to his Tigger while the other rubbed at sleep-drenched eyes.
Buck, the boy said through a wide yawn.
Hey, Lil Bit, I thought you were still sleeping. Wilmington quickly lifted the small boy into his arms and hugged him as he ruffled the dark hair.
I was, but I cant find Vin. His beds empty.
I know it is, Son...
Where is he, Buck?
I dont know right now, JD, but were going to find him, the mustached man looked up at his two friends and could see the truth in those words mirrored in their eyes. One way or the other they would work together until Chris and Vin were home where they belonged.
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Vin sat on the floor his hands wrapped tightly around his knees as he rocked back and forth. His gaze remained fixed on the bound ATF agent, his mantra repeating like a broken record in the quiet room.
I dont know...I dont know...I dont know...
Look at me, Vin, Marshall tried as Gregory moved towards the battered form with a bucket of water in his hands.
I dont know...I dont know...I dont know...
Yes, you do, Son and if you dont think really fast your father is going to suffer some more...
I dont know...I dont know...I dont know...
Wake him, Marshall ordered as Linden pulled back the bucket and sent the frigid water into Larabees face. A loud moan escaped from their prisoner and Rudy smiled as he got the reaction he wanted from the boy.
NO! Chris...please dont...no more...
You can stop it, Vin, but you have to answer my question. Where is the journal?
Dont hurt Chris no more, the child whimpered as he watched the green eyes fight to open. The left side of the blonds face was totally engulfed in a vivid array of colors stemming from a cut above the eyebrow and Vins gaze seemed glued to that spot.
Well, Son, thats entirely up to you. All you have to do is tell me where the journal is.
I told you I dont member!
Mores the pity. Look at him, Vin, how much more do you think your father can take?
L leave h...him, the blonds voice was hardly recognizable through the swollen split lips, but it brought life back to the childs face as the blue eyes met green.
Oh no you dont, Vin. Stay right here while I go to work! Gregory, would you mind making sure young Tanner has a front row seat?
Of course, Rudy, Linden said with a smile as he placed his hands on the boys shoulders.
See this knife, Vin, it can do so much damage, Marshall warned as he cut away the buttons on Larabees shirt.
Vin gasped as he caught sight of the heavily bruised chest and knew he had to find some way to stop this. His mind was centering on a plan as the blade cut a thin line across the battered ribs, blood oozing up from the wound. He lost track of the times that the blade landed and finally cried out.
I know...I know...
What do you know, Vin?
I know where it is!
Where? Marshall asked turning to face the child once more.
Its in the buildin where mama and me lived. Mama hidded it in the back of the closet!
Are you telling me a lie, Vin?
N...no! Its there! I know it is. Mama said it was the best hidin place and daddy wouldnt find it!
Very good, son, but if this is a lie your father will pay the full price. Now, Vin, you are talking about the house in Purgatorio arent you?
Okay, Gregory, throw them back in the basement and lock the place up. The kids not strong enough to break out of here, but you can make sure Larabees chained up until we get back!
Sure, Rudy, come on, Kid, Linden said as he dragged the boy to the basement and waited for him to descend into the darkness. He waited for Marshall to take his place before moving to lift Larabees arms from the meat hook and drag him the short distance to the basement stairs.
Ill be in the car, Marshall said when Linden was at the bottom of the stairs with the battered blond.
Ill be right out! Gregory assured him as he dropped the unconscious man onto the mattress. Youd better be telling the truth, kid, because Im really looking forward to my next go at your father!
Vin watched as the big man secured Larabee to the mattress and climbed the stairs. The flashlight had been left behind and Vin reached for it before moving towards his father and sitting down beside him. He knew they were in trouble and that he had to get help before their captors returned empty handed. The journal was not there, but he couldnt remember where it was and that angered him. He looked at Larabees face and reached out to touch him as a soft moan escaped the swollen lips.
Chris, Is sorry, Chris Is sorry
N not your fault, Vin.
Is my fault. Stupid cant remember!
Not s stupid, Vin. Youre one of the smartest boys around. Y you saved yourself and JD
Larabee smiled in spite of the pain it caused his swollen face. He shifted on the bed and wondered just how badly he was hurt as he felt warm blood on his bare chest even as pain washed over him. He bit back groan as Vin reached out for him.
Im okay, Vin. Whered they go?
I told em where the journal is, Chris, but I lied cause I dont member and thays gonna come back and hurt ya and Im scared Chris
Hey, easy, Son. You did good by pretending you knew where it was.
I did? the boy frowned as he watched his fathers face in the light cast by the flashlight he held.
Course you did. How long ago did they leave? Larabee asked, fighting to stay conscious in the wake of the mounting pain and nausea.
They just left. Why?
Thats great, Son, it gives you time to get out
Cant leave ya, Chris
Youre not leaving me, Vin. Youre going for help. You cant unlock the chains and even if you could I dont think I could get out of here, Son, so that means its up to you.
But the windows so high!
I know, but you could push some of those crates over and climb up on them. Then you break the window and climb out.
I dont know, Chris.
I do, Vin. Its the only way. Its gonna be cold and I dont know how long weve been here or even where we are, but if you stay here theyll
K kill us, Vin said his voice trembling fearfully. Ill go, Chris, but ya gotta promise me yall be h here when I I get back!
I promise Ill try, Vin
NO! Ya gotta promise yall be here or Is not leavin ya, Chris!
Promise me, Chris!
I promise Ill do my best. Thats all I can promise, Vin. Now get going before its too late. He saw the tears in the blue eyes and wished he could hold the child close, but his hands were bound tightly behind him and seemed to be attached to something immovable. I love you, Son.
I love ya ta, P Pa, Vin said and wrapped his arms around Larabee. He stayed that way for a few minutes, drinking in the scent he associated with Chris Larabee and finally stood up. His small frame shivered in the cold, but his face was set with grim determination. Ill be back, Chris! I promise!
Larabee smiled thinly as his adoptive son turned towards the back of the basement. Vin.
You need your coat and you need to be careful of the glass once you break he window. Use the old blanket to cover the shards before you climb through.
But you need the blanket.
Im not cold, Vin, Just pass me my coat and Ill be fine. Take the flashlight and try to flag down a car, just make sure its not Linden or Marshall. If the snows bad maybe youll see a plough out there. Just be careful, okay?
I will, Chris, Vin said as he wrapped the blanket Larabees shoulders before turning, picking up the flashlight and hurrying towards the back of the basement. He looked around and shifted some of the smaller crates until he had four piled on top of each other. He felt the tears falling from his eyes at leaving the older man, but the truth was he had to get them help before it was too late. Panning the floor with the flashlight he spotted a chunk of wood and hurried to pick it up before climbing the makeshift ladder. Once at the top he used the wood and broke the small pane of glass.
Vin, are you okay?
Is fine, Chris! Its cold out, but the snow has stopped. Is gonna get some help fer ya.
I know you will, Son. Just be careful!
Vin knew there was no choice now as he grabbed for the blanket hed placed on the crate beside him and quickly covered the small shards left in the window frame with it. His breath was white in the sunlight and he shivered as he dropped onto the snow covered ground. Vin stood and looked around until he saw the tracks leading out of the driveway and knew he needed to follow them until he found the road. Once there he would have to be careful until he found someone to help him.
Ill be back, Chris! he vowed as he forced his way through the deep drifts and shoved the flashlight into the pocket of his coat.
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