CHAPTER EIGHT: The Blame Game
Chris paced back and forth around the cars, barking at whatever unfortunate FBI or ATF agent crossed his path He mumbled his dissatisfaction as he fidgeted with his microphone. A strong grip was applied to his shoulder.
"I'm not in the mood," Chris growled. He turned to watch as the psychologist stuffed a granola bar into mouth.
"The son of a bitch who murdered my wife and little boy is in that building! Why are you sitting around eating breakfast?"
"It's the most important meal of the day," Josiah stated, stuffing the wrapper into his pocket. He wasn't prepared for the hands that wrapped around his neck or the pain that erupted in his head as he was slammed against the police car.
'You find this funny?" Chris growled, tightening his grip.
"Nobody's trying to make a joke Chris," Josiah stated.
Chris sighed and lessened his grip.
"We okay over here?" Buck asked, walking over. He eyed the two men suspiciously.
"Everything's fine," Josiah answered. "Chris was just letting out some steam."
"Well, how about next time you try and take it out on Walters, okay buddy?" Buck answered, referring to the local PD cop who had given Team Seven and The Red Glove trouble in the past. He always seemed to pop up at bad moments.
"Where's Vin?" Chris asked after making sure that Josiah was alright.
"He's inside already," Buck answered. "Sidney went with him."
"What?" Chris yelled. "I told her to stay put in the surveillance van."
"She didn't mention anything about that," Buck answered with a shrug of his shoulders. "Said you didn't give her instructions since we've gotten to the site, so she figured you gave her the okay to go into the field.
"Damn her!" Chris cursed. "She ain't going to last long on this team if she can't follow orders." He ran to the nearest surveillance van.
"Those two are really something aren't they?" Buck said shaking his head.
"Both of them are natural leaders, just too damn stubborn for their own good. It's only a matter of time before there is a serious confrontation between the two." Josiah stated, pulling another granola bar out of his pocket.
"This is supposed to comfort me?" Buck scoffed.
"Naw, just preparing you for the inevitable," Josiah chuckled.
"Thought you were hired to maintain the sanity of this team," Buck continued.
"If I'm going to do that I got to a raise," the psychologist answered, "and a better insurance policy."
The two men dispersed to return to their assigned positions.
"Any sane insurance agent isn't going to cover Chris Larabee and company," a lone cop said to himself, eavesdropping on the conversation.
Chris stalked towards one of the surveillance vans and flung the door open. Without paying any attention to the two men inside, he grabbed the microphone.
"Get your ass back here Marks!" he yelled
"Chris, I think there's a. . .."
"I don't care what you think! Just get out here now before I take you off this bust!" Chris yanked on the microphone so hard he ripped it out of its power outlet. He slammed it down on the ground, before exiting the van in a huff.
A loud gunshot echoed throughout the air. Chris's head shot towards the direction of the shot, the second warehouse.
"What the. . ."
A few seconds later, a loud explosion shook the ground, sending several surprised agents to the ground. Chris was forced to shield his eyes and the second warehouse erupted in flames.
The next few seconds were a blur. Chris was only vaguely aware of the chaotic frenzy that erupted around him. Vehicles shot out of the first warehouse almost hitting the agents stationed in front of them. Orders were being screamed by superiors, but nobody seemed to be listening. Out of the corner of his eye, Chris saw a gray SUV fly out of the building and spin out of control, crashing into the aluminum siding. But the agent only had one thought on his mind as he rushed towards the burning building, Vin was still inside!
"Chris!" Buck called, desperately fighting through the mob of people to get to his friend.
Chris ignored him and continued to rush towards the building. The heat of the fire continued to get warmer as he got closer to the flames.
Somebody grabbed his arm.
The agent spun around to punch whoever dared stand in his way. All rational thought had escaped his mind the moment the building had went up in flame. His arm stopped in mid punch when he realized who the person at his arm was.
"Get away from me," he growled.
"Chris, wait!" Sidney cried, yanking on his arm harder.
"Vin. . ."
"Chris, I'm right here!"
The voice struck a familiar cord in Chris's memory.
His nose was bleeding so hard it was starting to drip down and stain his shirt. The right arm was clutched and as he walked towards him, there was a slight limp in his step. Chris couldn't recall a time when Vin Tanner had looked so awful, but nobody had ever looked so good to the agent in his entire life.
Chris rushed up to his limping friend and put a hand on his shoulder.
"Easy Pard," Vin winced.
"You hurt?" Chris asked.
"No, think I'll go run that damn marathon with Nathan," Vin answered, sarcastically. "What the hell do you think?"
"Thought I'd try and fly."
"He fell off the rafter," Sidney answered.
Chris shot a questioning look at Sidney, but he didn't get a chance to ask his question. Fire trucks were rushing up to the burning building and agents were moving closer to the first warehouse to contain whoever was still inside and restore order to the chaotic scene.
"We've got to get out of the way," he stated when he realized that they were standing in the way of an awaiting fire vehicle. "I'm going to call an ambulance."
"I don't need one," Vin answered defiantly.
"Vin, don't. . ." Chris started to say.
"You bring a damn stretcher over here, you ain't going to be able to sit for a week," Vin growled.
"Yeah, I'm real scared that you could give me an ass whopping right now," Chris answered, rolling his eyes. "Sid, help me with him."
Vin only slightly protested the two assisting people at his sides. Slowly and painfully, they walked to an open area.
"What the hell happened to you Junior?" The second Buck had seen the injured man, he was by his side.
"Decided to make out with concrete," Vin answered. "Roughest date I've had in a while."
"Chris, we've got Fowler cornered," Buck stated, satisfied that Vin had suffered only minor injuries.
Chris jumped at the change of subject.
"What?" he asked.
"He tired to get away in that Explorer we've been tracking, but he lost control of the wheel. Josiah and a bunch of guys have got him pinned behind the truck. He's got a gun and peppering shots at the officers. They're waiting for you," Buck stated as quickly as he could..
"The son of a bitch," Chris growled. He turned towards the first warehouse where the distant sound of gunshots could be heard over the other commotion. He was fifteen yards away when he spun around on his heel. He shot a guilty look at Vin.
"Go," Vin demanded. "I'm fine."
Chris didn't need to be told twice. He almost ran into a young, blond, street cop about a hundred yards away the warehouse.
"I'm sorry Sir, but I've been ordered not to let any one cross this line. There's a contained shoot-out going on back there."
"And whose orders are you following?" Chris demanded. He fought the urge to run right over the young man.
"FBI Agent Sanchez. He told me not to let anybody enter but Senior Agent Chris Larabee."
"I am Chris Larabee," Chris barked, pushing past the man.
"Can I see some. . .right, go ahead sir," the cop's changed his statement when Chris turned to glare at him.
Josiah and another man that Chris recognized from the ATF team were standing behind a squad car, well out of range of Fowler's gun.
"Chris, over here!" Josiah called when he saw his boss.
Chris surveyed the scene as he walked over. The SUV had stopped its out of control spin right between the two warehouses. Fifteen cops had the car surrounded. A few were located between crates and the warehouse containing the explosives. The rest had parked their squad cars so the only spot Fowler could go was into the blazing building.
"Give me a vest," Chris ordered His body began to shake in fury and his face grew hot. The agent knew the source of the heat was not from the intense, but now contained flames.
The rage that Chris had managed to keep contained throughout the bust has broken free with a vengeance.
"Chris, just take a minute and relax."
"Damnit Josiah, I'm one shot away from killing the man that killed my family and you're telling me to relax? Give me a God damn vest!" Chris yelled. His voice echoed in the night air.
The gunshots stopped firing, and an eerie silence filled the air. The only noise was of cackling flames and the distant yell of man around them.
"Is that you Larabee?"
"Yeah, it's me you rotten son of a bitch!" Chris called back. He pulled out his gun and snuck behind the vehicles until he got to the nearest squad car. "Get out of here," he whispered to the red haired female ATF agent. She breathed a sigh of relief and disappeared from sight.
"I've been wanting to talk to you for a while now Larabee," Fowler stated.
"Well I'm here now, so let's talk," Chris called back. His whole body was shaking so hard he could barely hold his gun.
"Just wanted to let you know that the car bomb was never meant for you. It was planned for you're wife and little boy the entire time."
The statement hit Chris like a bullet to his chest. All these years, he had searched for a possible enemy of his, somebody that would want him dead. Now, this murdering son of a bitch was telling him that Sarah had really been the intended target.
"Why would you want to kill Sarah?" he asked, unable to prevent his voice from choking.
Fowler laughed. The wicked cackle pierced through Chris's heart.
"I had nothing against your wife Agent Larabee. Truthfully, she was below my usual list of targets."
"What the hell are you talking about?" Chris asked, desperation beginning to settle in his voice.
"I was hired Agent Larabee. I trailed your family for almost two months. I knew your routine, when Sarah brought your boy to day care, what time you got home."
Chris was speechless. A thousand thoughts were running through his mind. Everything that had ruled his thoughts for the last few years had been completely wrong. His gun dropped to his side, and the agent stared listlessly into the night.
"Listen to me Fowler," a voice called. "You're stuck; you've got nowhere to go"
Chris turned to head to see Josiah dodging around the cars to get to his side. The psychologist knelt down next to him. Chris felt his gun pressed into his hand, and his composure coming back. He smiled gratefully as Josiah before calling back.
"Who hired you Fowler?" He yelled.
"You know, I can't tell you that Agent Larabee," Fowler laughed.
"Tell me who hired you to kill my family and I might be able to get you're sentence knocked down," Chris called back.. For a few minutes, he had witnessed the Chris that Buck had dealt years earlier, and the one that had almost appeared numerous times in the last few days. Chris had come too close to loosing control of the situation, but now his friend was quickly gaining control of the situation again.
"You can't do that," Fowler called.
"I've got friends in high places," Chris called back. "Friends that want to know what happened to my family just as much as I do."
There was a long silence.
"Fine, I'll tell you," Fowler said. "But you have to come here."
"Toss you're gun out into the middle, and come stand in front of the truck where I can see you," Chris replied.
Josiah watched in satisfaction as Fowler emerged from behind the car, and tossed his weapon well out arm's reach.
Chris was about to get up, when Josiah placed an arm on his hand.
"Be careful Chris," he stated.
"I lost it once Josiah, I'm not going to let him do that to me again." Chris answered. His lips curved upward slightly as he emerged from behind the car.
The cops around knew better than to stop him. They all simply kept their guns pointed at Fowler.
"Tell me who hired you," Chris growled.
Fowler didn't answer right away. He looked around at the guns pointed around him, then at the raging fire.
"On second thought, I'll let you suffer some more Agent Larabee," Fowler whispered with a sick smile on his face.. Before anyone had a chance to react, Fowler had dived into the flames. Josiah was on feet, but by the time he had got to Chris's side, Fowler was gone. The spot had been replaced by burning flames.
"NOOoooooo!" Chris cried. "You bastard!" He just about collapsed into Josiah's arms.
For once in his life, no comforting words came to mind. Josiah was in complete shock. The only thing he could do was hold onto Chris and stare at the burning flames.
After a few minutes, Chris broke free of Josiah's grasp.
"I'm going to find some answers!" He growled. "Starting with why that damn building caught on fire in the first place."
Josiah had a difficult time keeping up with Chris, as the smaller man pushed his way through the crowd. He stumbled over somebody's foot, and was forced to take three unsteady steps before he regained his balance. He looked up to where he had last seen Chris, but his boss was long gone. Using his psychology skills and just good common sense, he was able to discern where Chris had probably gone.
Josiah could hear the shouting match from almost a hundred yards away.
"What the fuck were you doing in that warehouse?" Chris hollered
Sidney quivered slightly, but she held her ground.
"I already told you, I saw somebody go into that building. Vin was a sitting duck!"
"We had four teams on surveillance and none of them saw a damn thing!"
"Vin did you see anything?" Sidney asked, desperately
Josiah noticed Vin sitting in the corner. Nathan was hovering over him with a bandage. .He presumed that the doctor had probably been stuck on ambulance duty yet again.
"Sorry Sidney. I didn't see anything," Vin answered apologetically.
"Top sharpshooter in the country didn't see anything," Chris stated in satisfaction "I think people are going to believe him more than some reckless, immature kid that is looking for her own glory."
Is that what you think I am?" Sidney asked definitely.
"You're a murderer yourself," Chris lowered his voice. "I wouldn't doubt that you were in league with Fowler the whole time."
Sidney's shoulders fall. All signs of defiance deflated from her body like a balloon.
Nathan stood up immediately. His posture revealed his intention to pummel Chris if he said anything else.
"That's enough Chris," Vin stated harshly.
Chris seemed to realize the cruelty of his words, because he shut his mouth. But his anger still radiated from his cruel expression.
"I'm filing a report for insubordination Agent Marks; I don't want to see you in the office until the inquiries have run their course."
"Leave her alone you son of a bitch," Nathan growled in a low voice. He took a step forward. "Get away from here before I put you in a sling worse then Vin's."
Everyone turned to look at the doctor. None of them had seen Nathan loose his cool the way he did just now.
Chris looked like he was about ready to punch Nathan, but decided against it. With a snarl, he walked way.
"He's pretty upset right now," Josiah explained. "He probably just lost his once chance to seek justice for his family."
"What?" Sidney asked.
Josiah quickly explained what had happened.
"It doesn't give him an excuse to take it out on Sidney," Nathan answered, trying tp put an arm around her shoulder.
Sidney ducked away from the gesture and turned to walk towards where her truck was parked.
"I'm going to go call JD," she stated without waiting for a reply from anyone.
She stopped walking when she was few feet away from her truck, and pulled out cell phone.
"Sidney?" Ezra's voice answered.
Immediately, she knew something was wrong.
"Where's JD?" she asked.
"Recent events have kept him away from his mode of communications."
"Cut the bullshit Ezra. What happened tonight?"
"Everything has been wrapped up nicely," Ezra answered.
"Something went wrong."
"Why do you say that?"
"You sound really strange," she answered.
"Excuse me my dear, but I find that insulting.
"Ezra, just tell me what the hell happened!" Sidney didn't realize how desperate she sounded.
"Are you alright Sidney?" Ezra asked. "Perhaps I should be asking you what happened."
Sidney half sobbed her story to the millionaire.
"That son of a bitch!" Ezra exclaimed "I should come. . ..."
"Tell me what happened to the Red Glove tonight," Sidney interrupted.
Ezra sighed heavily.
"Evan was shot."
"What!!" Sidney cried. She almost dropped her phone.
"He's fine, Nathan patched up his shin nicely. Somehow Averal discovered our plan and hired some friends to celebrate with us. It could have been much worse."
"Oh God," Sidney winced, closing her eyes.
"Sidney, nobody. . ."
"No, you don't understand! I was supposed to be the one backing him up tonight. I bailed on the mission so I could come here."
"I know. I saw your truck change directions on the way to the motel."
"How did you. . ."
"I knew that you were already short on support. I figured I could offer my services if the need arose. It was luck I arrived when I did."
"What happened?" Sidney asked in a quiet voice, leaning against her truck.
"The miscreant who was firing at our friend never saw me, and I was able to provide a hindrance to a clean shot."
"You snuck up behind him?"
"Excuse me Ms. Marks, Ezra P. Standish does not sneak. I very discreetly walked behind him."
The comment had no effect on Sidney's nerves.
"God Ezra, this is my fault. JD and Evan were going to call it off if they didn't have enough people. I thought when they didn't see me, they would. . ."
"Neither I nor Evan blame you. Both of us agree that it was pure stupidity that we decided to carry out the deed."
"And JD?" Sidney asked.
Ezra did not respond right away.
"Shit," Sidney slid down to the ground next to left front tire.
"Sidney, you need to try and talk. . .."
"Where is he?" Sidney interrupted the man for the third time that night.
"At the Southside Bar with Casey. Everyone separated quickly after shots were fired. Those involved are supposed to check in with him, so we knows that everyone's okay. Personally, I wouldn't be caught dead in that foul locality, but. . ."
Ezra quickly realized that his response was not being heard. He thought about calling Sidney back, but realized that she probably wasn't going to answer.
+ + + + + + +
Sidney walked into the bar. JD and Casey were sitting at the far end. Neither on of them turned to look at her as she walked in. Casey looked unsure of herself, but she didn't acknowledge the other young woman's presence.
The look on JD's face made Sidney cringe. There was nothing but pure hatred in his eyes.
"Everybody went home already," he said, but he didn't elaborate.
"Let me explain," she said quietly. The bar was a rowdy place that night. The amps on the band's electric guitars were making the small building shake. The mix of loud music and voices made it nearly impossible for the conversation to be overheard, but they kept their voices down anyway.
"You made your decision," JD stated taking a sip from glass.
"JD, we had to take down Fowler, it you only knew how important . . .."
"More important than helping your friends?" JD asked, spinning around to look her straight in the eye. "Evan was counting on you for backup and almost got killed because you weren't there!!!"
"Vin would be dead if I hadn't been there tonight!" Sidney countered, refusing to let JD know how much Evan's accident had affected her.
"We know where you're loyalties lay," JD answered.
"JD, maybe we should. . ." Casey started to say, but JD cut her off.
"Come on Casey, don't you realize what's happening? She's picked her beloved FBI over us. She wants power over justice. I wouldn't be surprised if she turns on us to move up the ranks. Turning in the Red Glove would get her a promotion in a heartbeat!"
JD's words were laced with such venom that Sidney had to take a step backwards. She felt like she had just been punched in the gut. After a few seconds, she returned JD's gaze with an icy look of her own.
"You bastard," she hissed.
Before JD knew what happened, he was on the ground with a burning pain shooting through his right check. He could feel blood starting to pool in his mouth.
He felt Casey's arms on his shoulders and hot sweaty bodies kneeling down next to him. Half of them were teetering on their knees, unable to stay balanced.
"Hey buddy you okay?" a drunk asked, reaching out for him.
"I'm fine." JD swatted the hand away and got to feet.
"Wow, that chick just packed quite a punch. What did you say to her?" the man asked.
JD didn't answer; he reached for Casey's hand and pulled her after him. He walked outside, before letting her go. Large drops of rain splattered on his head.
A loud grinding noise drew his attention forward. Sidney was sitting in the driver's seat. The truck was not starting.
"Come on," JD answered, pulling out the keys to the Caddy.
"We can't just leave her here," Casey answered. "Not at a place like this."
"She's a federal agent now," JD answered sarcastically. "She wants to take care of herself."
He stalked over to the car, rubbing his sore cheek. Glancing up and looking at the struggling woman, his eyes softened and his anger receded slightly. He took a few steps forwards.
He was a few feet away, when Sidney gave him the finger.
"Come on," JD growled to Casey.
Sidney watched the expensive car leave the parking lot and could do nothing to stop the tears from welling up in her eyes. Chris and his team blamed her for blowing the man's one chance to discover out his family's murderer. JD was never going to talk to her again. Sidney leaned her head over the steering wheel and cried, as the rain clouds over Denver finally let their heavy weight loose.
She lifted her head when she heard pounding on her window. A large unshaven man was motioning for her to lower her window.
"Great," she thought to herself. "Just what I need." Grudgingly, she opened her window for the apparently intoxicated man.
"Hey sweetheart, I saw that you were crying." The man slurred his speech and leaned heavily against the door. Sidney turned her head when the stench of his breath reached her nose.
"I'm fine," she answered, reaching for the keys. It was time to get out of here.
"Think you could give a guy a lift?" the man asked. He looked like was about to fall over at..
"Sorry Mister, but I got to go." Sidney had not intention of letting this disgusting man inside her vehicle. "There is a taxi service inside that the bartender can help you out with. Besides you don't want to ride in this hunk of shit, it's about to break down any minute now."
Sidney Marks prided herself for always being on alert. She paid attention to detail and could make a fair guess about events were going to work out.. None of the signs gave any evidence to what happened next.
The man stood up straight and pulled out a gun. All symptoms of his drunken state were gone.
"Then I suggest we take my vehicle Agent Marks," he growled.
Sidney tried to indiscreetly reach for her sidearm, but the gun was shoved farther into the window.
"Don't even think about it," the man answered. "Get out of the car now."
Sidney desperately looked around for some kind of help. She saw shadows emerge into the parking lot, both drawing their own weapons.
"What do you want?" Sidney asked, trying to buy herself more time. She prayed somebody would realize what was happening and call the cops. Small beads of sweat were starting to drop from her forehead. She saw her cell phone lying open on the ground. "This has to do with Chris Larabee doesn't it?" She made sure to speak the name of her boss clearly.
"You sure like to talk don't you?" the man smiled evilly. "Now get out of the car before I decide to shut your mouth for you!"
Sidney glanced over at phone. The machine had understood her command and Chris's number had appeared on the small screen.
"Call!" she cried desperately when she saw the hand fly through the open window. She never got the chance to find out if the call had gone through. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a gun flying for the side of her head.
CHAPTER NINE: Unexpected Help
Chris sat in his office, watching the surveillance tapes. He was looking for a sign of truth in Sidney's story. The coffee cup near his hand had gone untouched for the last couple of hours. The trained set of eyes was glued to the television screen, looking for any sign that would prove his young agent's account of the events at the warehouse.. Chris regretted the way he had flown off the handle at the woman. He really hadn't given her a chance to explain. If Sidney had really saved Vin's life, then there was no doubt in his mind that loosing Fowler had been worth it.
The tape from the scene had shown only the outside of the second warehouse. At that moment, Vin should have been planted somewhere on top of the rafters. Chris paused the tape when he saw a man walk alongside the left side of the building.
"Damn!" he swore aloud.
He almost lost his breath when he saw a man walk through the right door, unnoticed by the any of the surveillance teams. Chris pushed aside the thought on how this had happened and continued watching the screen.
A few seconds later, Sidney rushed through the door after the man.
"Ahh shit," Chris continued to swear aloud. nothing happened for several minutes.. Finally the door flung open, and the man ran out. The explosion followed soon after. He watched Sidney and Vin emerge from the building before the whole warehouse lit on fire.
Chris rubbed his hand over his forehead and sighed heavily. The image of Sidney's hurt face reemerged in his eyes. He wasn't sure what effect his harsh words would have on the young woman.
Chris's own cell phone was out in a flash.
"What's up?" Buck answered.
"Sleeping like a baby now. Took me a while to stuff the painkillers that Nate gave me down his throat, but he should be resting for a while."
"Have you heard from Sidney?" Chris asked.
"Thought you didn't care about a careless rookie," Buck stated.. The hostile tone of his voice was unmistakable.
"She was telling the truth. There was somebody inside that building."
"I knew that girl wasn't lying to us," Buck responded.
It still doesn't make sense," Chris stated. "Our surveillance teams swore they didn't see anyone go inside that building. They should have been seeing the same thing we did."
The phone began to beep, alerting the agent that he had a call on the other line.
"Hold on Buck," Chris told his friend. "She's on the other line." He pushed the button to open up the new line. "Hey Sidney," he greeted.
The answer on the other line was not what he expected.
"Where is that noise coming from?" an unfamiliar male voice asked.
"Fuck, it's her cell phone!" the man's partner answered.
"Who the hell are you?" Chris bellowed. He didn't get a response. The line went dead. "What the hell was that about?" He asked aloud. He redialed the number, but received no answer. The process was repeated several times, but Sidney still didn't pick up her phone.
A cold chill shot down Chris's back. Something wasn't right. How had two strange men ended up with Sidney's phone? Chris turned on the laptop at his side and plugged in his cell phone. He hesitated before opening up the cell phone tracking program. It felt like an invasion of his agent's privacy. He justified the action by figuring if Sidney really was in trouble, she would need his help.
The map of Denver popped up and the searching signal flashed several times.
"Fuck!" Chris swore slamming his hands down in the laptop keyboard.
It beeped loudly at the abuse, but continued to display its "SIGNAL UNDECTABLE" message.
He redialed Buck's number.
"We've got a problem," he stated. The hardened FBI agent felt his jaw clench in nervousness as he explained to his friend what was gong on.
+ + + + + + +
"This is the guy that I saw leaving the building before it exploded," Chris explained as he replayed the surveillance tape on the laptop for the hundredth time in the last few hours. He looked around at the faces of the men who had gathered around him. Jaws were clenched and worry lines were evident on all.
Even JD was leaning close to the screen. The muscles of his body were tense.
"That's Handsome Jack!" he exclaimed.
"Who?" Buck asked. His head snapped towards the computer screen.
"Jack Averal," Ezra explained, "a criminal that specializes on breaking into banking security systems, and has been suspected of stealing millions. He explains his suspicious fortune by gracious relatives and luck in the stock market. I tend to believe that a significant sum of his wealth has ended up in the hands of the men charged with investigating him." He looked at JD whose head was turned away. "The Red Glove has been interested in him for quite some time. In fact we had a visit planned for this evening, but unfortunately he was not available. Looks like we discovered where his was." He paused for a moment and stared hard at the frozen still of the computer genius.
"I don't see a connection between Jack Averal and Fowler though."
Ezra was never one to let his emotions show, but even he couldn't hide his concern about his missing friend from the other men in the room.
"That explains why surveillance probably missed him," Buck stated. "I wouldn't doubt that he did something to the cameras. Sidney just happened to see him by chance."
"If he's the one that tried to kill Vin," Josiah stated. "He probably saw Sidney walk into warehouse."
"You think Averal kidnapped Sidney?" Buck asked.
Ezra sighed tiredly, "I don't know what to think. All I know is that something happened to Sidney and I intend to find her. And woe to Handsome Jack or any man that does any harm to her."
"Amen to that," Josiah answered, patting Ezra on the shoulder. "Chris, did Sidney say anything about recognizing Handsome Jack?"
"I didn't give her much of a chance," Chris answered with a sigh. He could feel his stomach turning on the inside.
"You've been awfully quiet JD," Buck stated.
"Nothing to say," JD answered, looking out the window. Traces of sunlight were just becoming visible.
"What do you mean you've got nothing to say?" Buck asked surprised. "You're friend might be dead and you can't say anything?"
JD began to shake.
"If she is, its my fucking fault!" JD yelled, getting up from his seat. He tried to make a beeline for the door, but Chris grabbed a hold of his shoulder.
"Let me go!"
"Not until you explain to me what the hell you are talking about," Chris growled back. He pushed JD back into the chair, and didn't let go until he was sure that the young man wouldn't bolt on him again.
The men watched as JD completely lost it. His head fell onto the table and his body began to shake from silent sobs.
Ezra got up from his seat and placed his arms on the quaking shoulders.
"What happened tonight JD," he asked quietly.
JD lifted his head and turned his bloodshot eyes towards Ezra.
I left her alone at the bar." He declared. "She was upset, but I just left her there alone. If I had just stayed a little longer. . ."
"She might have given you another shiner to go along with the one on your check," Josiah smiled weakly. "Nobody blames you JD."
"You should," JD answered," I don't deserve to be here right now."
"If Averal hadn't gotten her tonight, he would found another way," Buck said firmly.
"Unless I could have gotten that bastard behind bars already," Chris answered with a guilty sigh. "The time I spent giving her the third degree I could have been chasing him down."
"And this incident never would have occurred if I had not stopped her from attending the raid on the warehouse tonight," Ezra answered. "Really gentlemen this guilt trip is accomplishing nothing, but wasting precious time. We should be. . ." Ezra stopped talking when the door to the FBI office opened.
"What the fuck do you think you're doing here?" Chris asked, jumping to his feet. The others moved to the edge of their seats.
"Sidney's missing and I'm here to help find her."
"You should be at home resting," Josiah scolded.
"And you should mind your own business," Vin answered as he sat down. He tried to hide the wince as the motion jolted his arm.
"How did you get here?" Buck asked.
"Being in cahoots with the Red Glove has its advantages," Vin chuckled, but his smile quickly disappeared. "Casey Wells found this at the bar." He pulled the cell phone out of hid pocket. It had been smashed.
"Shit," Buck swore.
There was a knock on the office door.
"Who the hell could that be at this hour?" Josiah asked.
The visitor did not wait until they were invited in. The door swung open to reveal an unexpected caller,
"Ella?" Chris asked in disbelief.
"Oh Chris, I just heard the news! How dreadful, you losing the only link to your family's murderer! I came over to make sure that you were alright."
"I'm fine," Chris answered. "You didn't need to come here Ella. Not this early."
"Yes I did, when a person really cares about. . ."
Ella turned her head
We're a little busy right now Miss," Vin answered, returning her hard gaze.
Chris sensed the tension.
"One of our agents is missing," he explained. "We think she might have been kidnapped by this man." He pointed to the screen.
The men looked at Chris in surprise. The team leader was usually the least open to sharing important information. He hard a hard time giving it up to other teams, much less a civilian.
"That man?" Ella asked as she looked at the screen. Recognition flashed in her eyes.
"You know him?" Buck asked.
"Know him? I've been looking for Jack Averal for years." Ella answered. "Ten years ago, I lost thousands of dollars from an account I set aside for an orphanage I planned to start in Spain. The Spanish government wouldn't give me the time of day, but I hired my own private investigator. He linked the stolen money to Jack Averal. I've never been able to catch him."
Everyone looked at the woman in surprise.
"You think this man did something to your agent?" Ella asked.
Chris nodded his head.
"I offer you full use of my facilities," Ella directed the comment, "and access to the best technology in the world."
"We've already got that," JD stated quietly.
Ezra placed a hand on the young man's shoulders to quiet him.
"Do not turn away free help my friend," he whispered. "I have a feeling we are going to need as much as becomes available to us."
"Technology isn't going to do us any good if we don't get a lead to follow," Vin grumbled quietly, but nobody seemed to hear him.
"Miss Ella, this may be the beginning of a great relationship," Buck answered. "Too bad you're already off limits." He winked at Chris. "Where you off to Junior?"
Vin slowly rose out of his seat, trying to jostle his arm as little as possible.
"Going to head home and sleep a little more," Vin answered. "Going to give Casey a call."
"I can give you a lift Vin," JD offered. "The Red Glove needs to hear what's going on."
Vin looked over his shoulder on the way out, trying to catch his friend's eye. His insides hurt more than his arm ever could when he realized that Chris's gaze was completely absorbed in the woman.
"What's wrong Vin?" JD asked as the two men walked into the parking ramp.
"Who says anything's wrong?" Vin answered.
"I haven't known you too long Vin, but you don't seem the man who would let a broken arm get in the way of helping a friend," JD answered. His words choked and he turned his head.
"Looks like you ain't doing to good yourself right now Pard," Vin stated with a weak smile, glad for the change of subject.
"I don't know," JD answered. "It's just the way that everybody seemed so willing to trust that Gaines woman, even Ezra. Everyone seemed so happy when she agreed to help, its like they forgot that Sidney was even in trouble. She just stole the attention away from Sidney."
Vin decided to share his inner thoughts with his friend.
"Can I trust you with something?" he asked.
JD nodded his head.
"I don't trust Ms. Ella Gaines, not one bit."
"But Chris seems to like her an awful lot, and she was robbed of all that money" JD protested.
"Chris Larabee ain't always perfect JD, nobody on the team is. Something about that woman rubs me the wrong way, and I'm going to dig a little bit more into the Ella Gaines and Handsome Jack connection."
"But what if she finds Sidney?" JD pushed.
"Then I will admit my mistake in front of everyone gladly. But until that happens I'm gong to search for Sidney alone far from the seductive ways of Ms. Ella Gaines.
CHAPTER TEN: A Turn in the Case
The sun was just beginning to fill up the morning sky. A little blackbird perched on top of a building and began singing its greeting to the new day. A sudden movement under the bird startled him and it swiftly flew away.
Ella Gaines looked over her shoulder as she walked towards the back of the new business building. The new headquarters of the woman's successful business was situated in the middle of a large patch of tall pines. If offered the privacy that woman desired.
She didn't think anyone would be following her, but being extra cautious is had gotten her to where she was today. She breathed a sigh of relief when her assumption proved correct.
"Well Ella, aren't you looking simply stunning today." A man emerged from the shadows and stood directly in Ella's path.
"I already told you that I would like to be addressed as Ms. Gaines. Thank you."
Jack Averal just smirked.
"Don't know what you see in Chris Larabee. The two of us could have something special you know." He took a step forward, but Ella quickly retreated.
"I'm not paying you to be fresh with me Averal," she snarled. "Did you get what I asked for?"
"Yes ma'am," ha answered with a sigh, and pulled an envelope out of his pocket.
Ella took it with a greedy look in her eye.
"I'll transfer the money to your account as soon as I can get to my desk."
"Whatever you say," the man smiled and turned on his heel to walk away.
"Wait," Ella called. "I need a favor."
Averal raised an eyebrow.
"I want you to hang around here for a couple of days. I don't think anyone will expect anything, but you can never be too careful."
"What's this too careful going to cost you?"
"Two million," Ella answered. She smiled when she saw the effect the large sum of money had on the man. "I pay well for good help."
"I can see that," Averal answered. "You won't see me, but I'll be around."
Ella watched him walk away and looked once again over her shoulder. Satisfied that nobody was near, she walked back into the building. She never heard the click of the camera or the flash of light as the sun caught the lens.
Vin shimmied down the drainpipe he had crawled up and landed on his feet. Quickly, but quietly he began sprinting towards the woods.
"Hey!" a voice called.
Vin didn't stop to see who was calling. His legs began to move faster as he heard the alarm go off. Yelling voices and barking dogs echoed throughout the woods.
"Shit," he said to himself as he clutched his camera closer, constantly glancing over his shoulder. He ignored the branches as the hit him in the face. His long legs carried him gracefully over the stumps and roots that would have tripped up many people.
If there was somebody chasing him, they were too late. The old jeep was soon in view. In a matter of seconds, the agent was in the driver's seat and tearing down the road. He drove ninety miles down the highway, ignoring the protests of his old his jeep.
"You wouldn't dare conk out on me now you bastard!" he threatened the rusted out vehicle. He swerved around a random construction barrel before tuning onto the road of his destination. Soon the elegant Standish mansion came into view. Vin parked into the driveway and pulled as close as he could to the house. He grabbed the sheets of paper and the camera next to him and sprinted towards the house. Although his mind was on more important matters he couldn't help but smile when he saw baseball mitts, kayak paddles, and carabineers scattered around Ezra's impressive and expensive marble statutes.
The door was already opened for him. An attractive gray haired woman was waiting for him.
"They're downstairs Mr. Tanner," she told him as she moved aside, allowing the agent to pass.
"Thanks Marcy," he called to the estate's housekeeper.
"Vin?" she asked.
Vin stopped in his tracks and turned to look at the woman. He saw the concerned look in her eye.
"I think we've got a lead on her Ma'am. She should be back here in no time," he answered, knowing exactly what she was going to ask. He walked over the fireplace where a large stone had been pulled aside. The hole led to a hidden room underneath the fireplace. Ezra and the Red Glove ran their operations out of this space. Expensive computers and the best equipment Standish Corporation had to offer where contained inside the refurbished area.
Vin crawled through the opening, and felt his feet land on the metal elevator's floor.
Nathan and Ezra were sitting at chairs around a large oak table. Papers were spread in disarray across the surface. They looked up when they heard the open elevator start up.
"Mr. Tanner, to what do we owe this pleasure?" Ezra asked, as Vin stepped onto the ground.
"You took the cast off," Nathan scolded.
"Don't need it anymore. I got something more important," Vin answered.
"You know where Sidney is?" Nathan asked hopefully.
Vin shook his head sadly.
"No, not that. But it seems like Ms. Ella Gaines may not be the woman that everyone thought she was."
"Is this what you've been doing?" Nathan asked. "You haven't been around much lately. Chris told us that you wanted space to pursue your own leads."
"I did and this is what I found," he handed the sheets of paper over to Nathan and Ezra took the camera.
"What the hell?" Nathan asked, flipping through phone records. The name Jack Averal appeared at least fifty times within the last month.
Ezra stared open mouthed at the stills on the digital camera, The small images revealed a smiling Ella Gaines within inches of Handsome Jack. For once in his life, he was speechless.
"That bitch," Nathan hissed. The words had their intended effect from the usually calm and collected man.
"They were taken this morning," Vin answered. "I've been tailing Ms. Gaines for quite some time."
"As interesting as this turn in the case might be," Ezra stated, "it leads us no closer to finding Sidney,"
"No," Vin agreed, "but if Ella was lying about Averal then she's probably lied about other things well. Somebody ought to go over to her office and have a talk with her, somebody who knows the truth."
Ezra's face turned pale.
"Oh Lord," he whispered quietly.
"What?" Nathan asked.
"JD told me that he had some questions regarding the surveillance tapes. I told him that they were at Solaris Enterprises."
"You mean JD is heading right towards that mess?" Nathan asked.
He immediately pulled out his cell phone.
"I'm going to get a hold of Chris," Vin stated, before pulling out his own phone.
"If early mornings are always like this," Ezra said quietly, "then I knew there was a reason why I stayed in bed."
+ + + + + + +
JD heard the constant beeping of the alarms as he pulled his motorcycle into the small parking lot of Solaris. He was surprised at the small amount of cars. A small parking lot meant a small work force. Standish Corporation employed at least two hundred people at each of its sites. This business didn't look like it had more than thirty people. The young man suspected it was because Ella's business was just getting started.
No sooner had he gotten off of his motorcycle then a strong arm grabbed him around his waist. He was about to fight back when he felt something hard and cold pushed against his neck. JD knew exactly what it was and he felt a cold shiver down his spine.
"Look mister I. . .." he started to say, but it only forced the gun harder into his flesh. He winced in pain.
"Shut up you little prick. What the hell are you doing here?"
"I just wanted to talk to Ella Gaines," JD answered, trying to keep his cool. "She's a friend and she's trying to help us find. . .."
"You wouldn't by chance know Chris Larabee would you?" the voice asked, loosing his grip.
JD breathed a sigh of relief.
"Yeah, he's the ones who helping us. . ." JD turned around and saw who his assailant was.
"You!" He yelled, but didn't get a chance to say anything more.
As quick as lightening, Jack Averal whipped out his gun and turned its butt on JD's head. He watched in sick glee as the young man crumbled to the ground.
'That's for hacking into my computer and my room you little fuck!"
"What the hell is going on out here?" a female voice screeched. The criminal turned around to see Ella rushing towards him.
"Just doing what you hired me to do pretty lady, taking out one of Larabee's men. Let me tell you if what a real pleasure too. This little bastard and his friends have been on to be for quite some time."
"You idiot!" Ella yelled. "I can guarantee you that this little runt didn't know anything. He thinks I'm God's gift to the world because I'm trying to help him find Marks. I've got him eating out of the palm of my hand!"
"How can be sure though?" Averal asked. "He's smart enough to know who I am. Maybe he found something out and was coming to get Marks, or worse, you. I saw Tanner snooping around here that I know. For all we know, Tanner told this kid what we were doing."
Ella stared at the man hard. She hated to admit it, but the man was right.
"Put him downstairs and we'll deal with him later," she said. "I've got to head over to Chris's house before Tanner ruins everything."
"What are you going to do about the alarm?" Averal asked.
"I'll tell Bob that a squirrel tripped a wire or something," Ella answered. "Those idiots in there will believe anything as long as they get to work on their stupid computers."
She watched as Jack threw Dunne's limp body over his shoulder and walk towards the building.
"I have waited almost twenty years for Chris Larabee to be mine. I will destroy anyone who stands in my way!" she screamed to the trees
CHAPTER ELEVEN: Betrayal
Chris sat at the kitchen table in his kitchen. His hands were shaking as they sorted through the papers lying across the table.
"It can't be true," he whispered. "She wouldn't do that, not Sidney." He stared out his front window. Boards and construction equipment littered the lawn. His project to add on to his barn had been neglected for the last couple of weeks.
The agent tried to look past what the sheets of paper were telling him. That the young woman he had trusted, had even begun to let into his fragile heart, had done this awful task. As much as he tried to avoid the fact, the evidence was staring him the face
Sidney hadn't been kidnapped. All this time that he had spent tormenting himself that he might have caused her harm, she had been living the easy life.
In front of him, Chris had bank statements. It appeared like Sidney had wiped out the entire bank account that Ezra had set aside for her. Chris also had phone records from her cell phone revealing several long distance calls to the Bahamas. If that hadn't been enough, there were actually photos of the young woman at a tiny airport in the Caribbean. Ella had almost been in tears when she had given him all the information her employees had found for her.
He toyed with the phone near his hand, knowing that he had to call Buck, Josiah and the others. God, he didn't want to know how Ezra was going to take the news.
The back door swung open. Chris lifted his head and saw Vin run inside.
"We've got trouble Pard," Vin huffed. "Ella Gaines is. . ." he stopped dead in his tracks when he saw the look on his friend's face. "What's wrong?"
Chris just pointed to sheets of paper on the table. Vin picked them up and began looking through them.
"What is this shit?" he asked. He looked up at Chris. "Where did you get all this?"
"Ella gave it me," Chris answered hoarsely.
Vin's face turned red.
"That bitch!" He yelled. He picked up the piece of paper in front of him and ribbed it to shreds.
"What the fuck are you doing?" Chris asked unbelievably.
"I don't know about the Ella Gaines that you knew before, but the woman we're dealing with now is a monster!" Vin answered.
Chris stared at him with a dumfounded look.
"Come on, I want to show you something."
Still unsteady from the evidence and Vin's outburst, Chris followed meekly.
By the time they reached Vin's jeep. The agent had gained some of his composure back.
"What do you mean Ella's a monster?" he growled.
"Chris, she's been in league with Handsome Jack the whole time! That means she was probably connected with Fowler. I don't know how she is connected to Sarah but. . .."
"Shut the hell up!" Chris roared. "Why are you saying this?"
"I'll show you," Vin answered. He opened up the jeep and reached for his camera.
He turned it on and handed it to Chris.
"This will answer your questions," Vin smirked.
Chris looked at the camera and his face clouded over.
"Is this your idea of a sick joke Tanner?' he growled.
Vin grabbed the camera and gasped in horror.
"What the hell?" he asked incredulity..
Where the pictures of Ella and Handsome Jack should have been, there was only a blue screen and the words MEMORY CARD EMPTY.
Chris grabbed the camera out Vin's hand and threw it on the ground. It shattered into pieces.
"You've had it in for Ella since you met her," Chris said, getting right in Vin's face.
"I don't know what happened to the camera Chris," Vin answered standing his ground. "I saw her meeting with Averal and they were laughing!"
"Like hell!" Chris growled. "I think I understand you Tanner. You're jealous."
"Jealous of what?' Vin spat.
"Jealous of the fact that I'm spending time with Ella, not with you. You're looking for a reason to hurt her, and you'll do anything to get rid of her. You sick son of a bitch."
The statement stung so bad that Vin was forced to take a step backwards.
"You really mean that? Vin asked quietly.
"Every word," Chris didn't let go of any of his ground. "And you're a lying snake on top of it all."
"Fine," Vin yelled.. "You stay with your precious Ms. Gaines. The two of you deserve one another!" He opened his frond door and got in. He tore out of the driveway so fast it knocked Chris to the ground.
Vin was lucky that he stayed on the road. The mist in his eyes was blurring his vision and making it almost impossible to see the road. Not caring about himself, but knowing that he may be a danger to someone else, he pulled to the side of the road. He let his head drop onto his steering wheel.
He didn't notice the Jaguar pull up next to him unto he heard the banging on the window. He looked up to see Ezra's concerned face.
He watched Ezra's face cloud over as he filled his friend in on what happened.
"Sidney doesn't even like the heat," he spat. "Whoever made up those lies could have done a better job of it."
"All that matters is that Chris believes it," Vin answered.
"Then the two of us are going to over there right now and fix this," Ezra answered firmly. "Sidney needs the two of us and I fear that JD might also."
"JD?" Vin asked.
"We haven't been able to get a hold of him for the last few hours. Buck and Josiah have even joined in the attempts."
"Shit," Vin moaned.
"I propose that we go over there right now Mr. Tanner and set Chris Larabee straight. Whatever clutch this witch Ella Gaines has him has to be broken once and for all."
"I give up," Vin answered resignedly. "I don't give a damn what he does anymore. He had his chance to do the right thing and he fucking blew it! "
Ezra could see the hurt in Vin's eyes.
"You can't just give up on him like this," he answered.
"Yes I can. I'm out of here. I should have just stayed on my own and never cared. Life would have been a lot easier that way."
Now it was Ezra's turn to be angry.
"You are just going to give up on Sidney? She never did a thing to hurt you! What about JD? The kid basically worships the ground you walk on, Both of them need your help right now."
":Can't handle it right now," Vin answered.
Ezra's eyes narrowed to slits.
"Then you don't deserve their friendship," he answered coldly. "Go on and leave then. Good riddance to you."
Ezra watched as Vin's Jeep drove away, but he didn't care. There was fury burning inside of him, something that he had never felt before. He pulled into Chris's driveway and got out.
"Mr. Standish, this is a pleasure."
The voice made Ezra's blood run cold. He slowly turned on his heels, trying to prevent himself from doing something stupid.
"Hello Ms. Gaines," he greeted. "Is Mr. Larabee here?"
"He's inside. I'm sure he had informed you about Ms. Marks. It's such a shame isn't it? She conned us all."
Before even Ezra knew what happened, Ella was pushed up against the car, with a hand around her neck.
"What are you doing?" she squealed.
'I don't know what is going on in your sick mind," Ezra growled. "But if you don't tell me where Sidney is now, I will squeeze every single breath out of you."
"Mr. Standish, I am outraged. You are not the well-mannered man I thought you were," Ella cried between gasps for breath.
"Believe me my dear," Ezra answered. "I past being civil a long time ago, Now tell me where Sidney is!"
Ezra was so absorbed in his captive, that he didn't notice the shadow come up behind him until it was too late. He felt a stabbing pain in his back as he was shoved to the ground.
"What the hell are you doing Standish?" Chris roared.
Ezra was so out of breath that he couldn't answer right away.
Ella grasped her neck where bruises were already forming.
"He tried to kill me Chris!" She screamed. "He and Tanner are working together."
Ezra pulled himself to his feet.
"Yes we are," he answered, turning to look at Chris.
"Whose side are you on?" Chris asked, his fists curling into balls.
"Whatever side is going to help me find my friends," Ezra answered. "And she is not on it, the little bitch."
Chris's fist flew through the air, but this time Ezra was able to gracefully duck the blow. The smaller man's right fist connected with the blonde's left check. Before Chris knew what happened, he heard a loud crack and was seeing spots as his nose radiated a body numbing pain.
"You son of a bitch," Ezra growled. "What has come over you man? Can you not see what this devil is trying to do?" He took a step forward, willing to offer aid to his friend who was in obvious pain.
"What are you talking about?" Chris asked, clutching his nose that had started to bleed down his face and onto his shirt.
"She's trying to. . ."
Ezra never got a chance to finish his sentence
Chris watched as the man's eyes rolled to the back of his head and his knees crumpled. He reached out to help the man, but the effort was too late. The millionaire collapsed to the ground. He didn't move.
Ella faced the agent with a sad smile on her face. She tossed the board to the ground.
Chris turned to look at her with hard eyes.
"That's two of my friends who think that you've done something to Sidney," he growled. "Tell me why."
Ella's features softened instantly
"Can't you see that they're trying to drive us apart?" she asked, her eyes welling up with tears. "All I want to do is be with the man I love."
The hard look left Chris's face as he held out his arm to her.
"Shhh,' he soothed, pulling her close. "Nobody is going to hurt you, I won't let them."
Ella lifted her head to see his bleeding nose and bruised check.
"But more will come, and they may do more than just threaten," Ella stated.
Chris shook his head.
"The others are my friends, they wouldn't . . .."
"Did you ever think that Vin Tanner would. . ."
Chris didn't hear the rest of the sentence. He felt so confused. He had trusted Vin, more than he had trusted anyone before. He thought he could count on him for anything. Why would he suddenly lie?
"Come to my home Chris. Neither one of us will be bothered there."
Ella's statement brought Chris back to reality. Still confused, all he could do was nod his head. He looked down and saw Ezra's unconscious body still on the ground.
"He will be fine," Ella answered, correctly reading the look on Chris's face.
Still confused, Chris let himself be led towards the sports car parked behind the barn. He wondered why she had parked way back there but didn't ask aloud
+ + + + + + +
Chris watched as the sports car drove out of the large driveway. He was sitting in the living room of the lavishly designed mansion. The Standish Estate was old and appealing because of its antiquities. Ella's mansion was the direct opposite, equipped with the most modern amenities the world had to offer. The plush armchair that he was sitting in had been purchased from a store in Paris. A bottle of whisky sat on the oak coffee table next to him, half empty
The agent played with the cell phone in his hand. He thought about calling Vin, but he knew the stubborn Texan wouldn't pick up. The image of Ezra crumpling to the ground also filled his mind.
"That's enough of this," he growled to himself, getting out of the chair. Ella had offered him a bed to use in case he got tired.
"Two large painkillers and a nap sound good," he said, as he trudged the stairs.
A cold shiver made his whole body shake. He walked into his room and noticed the similarities between it and his own bedroom. Pictures of the southwest were tastefully hung on the walls and how the bedding was his favorite colors. He also realized that the minimal amount of bedding was not going to be enough for the sudden cold that plagued his body. He walked over to the linen closet near Ella's room, and opened the door just a smidge.
. He gasped when he saw what was inside. Pictures of him in the SEALS and the PD covered the walls. Old riding boots, shirts, books, and items that he had thrown away a long time ago covered the shelves. A glimmer of light caught his eye. He reached out and picked up a small locket.
He remembered giving Sarah the locket a few hours after Adam had been born. The image of tired, yet happy face as she held the locket and her newborn still burned fresh in his mind. She had rarely taken it off since. There was only one way that Ella could have gotten this precious gift. Sudden realization hit him as his whole body began to shake.
"I saw her meeting with Averal and they were laughing.
The image of Vin's back leaving his house flooded his mind as he fell to his knees.
JD felt his head smash hard onto the ground. He didn't have much time to think about the pain in his head. A guttural howl escaped his lips when a steel toed boot connected with his stomach. He felt something crack inside. Trying to protect himself, he curled up into a ball. It did him little good against the continuous kicks of his assailant.
"You little prick," the man growled, kicking harder. "How the hell did you get into my damn computer system?"
"That's enough Jack," a woman's voice called.
JD lifted up his throbbing head. The poor lighting and his blurry vision made it difficult to see the fine details of the new guest, but he would know the woman anywhere.
"Ella?" he asked, dumbfounded.
"Poor Mr. Dunne, what have you gotten yourself int?," Ella tutted. She knelt down next to JD and began stroking his cheek. She laughed when JD tried to turn his head against her gentle touch. "You needn't have gotten involved JD, none of this concerned you."
"Where's Sidney?" JD demanded.
"If you would have been a little more observant my young friend, you would have noticed that she has been with you the whole time."
JD followed the woman's pointed finger to the corner of the room. He gasped when he saw his best friend's body curled up in an unmoving ball. He felt his heart stop.
"Don't worry; she is suffering the consequences of a sedative. She has felt very little of her last few weeks in captivity."
"Why?" JD asked the only would that his muttled mind could put together.
Ella laughed and pulled herself back to her feet.
"I should have thought that to be quite obvious," Ella answered. A passionate fire came into her eyes and her whole body began to shake. "Chris Larabee and I were meant to be together. I knew this fact from the first day we meant. He did too until that bitch from Colorado got in my way. How she did it is still unknown to me, but she brainwashed his mind into thinking she was the one for him. Despite her power over him, I always new that he would come back to me."
"He was in love with Sarah, you bitch!" JD spat. "Chris loved her and Adam more than anything in this world. He'll strangle you with his own bare hands."
"You are so young JD Dunne, so young and naïve." Ella shook her head with a look of pity in her eyes. "For a while I thought the same thing too. Once her son had been born, I thought that I had lost him forever. Years later I realized how dense I had been. Chris and I had to be together, no matter who had to die in order for that to happen."
JD could only stare at her with a look of dumbfounded horror in his eyes.
"That's why that woman and her offspring had to be taken care of," Ella continued. "and anyone else that stands in the way."
"That's why Fowler. . ."
"An old business friend," Ella confirmed.
"And why you hired Handsome Jack to try and kill Vin Tanner. They're almost like brothers. They share a bond that not even you were able to break. You know that Chris would be at Vin's side in a second if he thought his friend was in trouble" JD was finally beginning to understand.
Ella nodded her head.
"Why Sidney?" JD asked.
"I've seen the way my Chris looks at her," Ella answered, turning her head to look at the unconscious girl. "She's young and beautiful. Those green eyes could make a stronger man than Chris Larabee go weak and the knees."
"You don't think Chris is really. . ." JD tried to interrupt, but Ella kept on talking.
"I had to get rid of her. She was a threat, not as big as Sarah, but a threat none the less. Of course, I couldn't kill her right away. I knew what finding her dead would do him; put him into another unreachable state of depression. Chris had to see who that little bitch really was." Ella's voice continued to rise as she talked.
None of this made any sense to JD, but he could see that it made perfect sense in Ella's crazed mind.
Ella calmed down and turned to look JD straight in the eyes.
"Chris Larabee will soon profess his undying love for me!" She looked down at JD. "There was only supposed to be one death tonight." she answered sadly. "But now I see that I'm going to have to commit two crimes in the name of love tonight." She pulled a gun, which had gone unnoticed by JD, out of her jeans.
For the first time that night, JD really began to panic. He looked over at Sidney, but the woman hadn't moved. He closed his eyes and winced when he heard the safety click off.
"You've done enough to my friends already, Miss Ella," a familiar voice drawled. JD looked up just in time to see Ella buckle at the knees and collapse on the ground.
"Hey JD," Vin smiled when he looked down at his young friend. The smile faded when he saw that JD had begun wheezing. The adrenaline that kept the young man going through the conservation was leaving fast.
Vin knelt down next to JD, and reached a hand out for his shoulder.
"No," JD wheezed. "Help Sidney."
Vin was startled by the statement. Obviously he hadn't noticed the young woman was also in the room.
"Shit," he answered, as he knelt down next to his friend. "Sidney, can you hear me?" he asked, brushing the bangs out of her eyes.
"Vin?" Her voice was barely more than a whisper, but it was a response none the less. Both of the men breathed a sigh of relief.
"Ella is going to. . .." Sidney started to say.
"I know honey. It's going to be okay now," Vin soothed. He looked over to JD. "What do you say we bust out of here?"
"Sounds like a plan," JD answered, jumping to his feet. His battered body was not prepared for the action. He knees buckled and he collapsed to the ground once again.
"Easy," Vin answered, helping JD to his feet again. "You sure you can manage?"
JD nodded his head, despite the pain he was feeling.
Vin knew better than to argue with him. He bent down and scooped Sidney into his arms, frowning at the lack of weight. He wondered if she had eaten anything in the two weeks of her captivity.
"There's some people who are pretty anxious to see you little lady," he smiled. "JD, grab my sidearm. Don't want to mess things up now."
JD reached down and pulled Vin's gun out of its hostler, and began to follow the sharpshooter down the hallway. He realized that they were in the basement, when the cold damp smell reached his nose. Kerosene lamps were placed along the wall providing minimal light.
"Think with all her money, she could get decent lighting down here," Vin "What you think Sid?" He realized that she had passed out again. He shifted her in his arms. Her warm face fell against his neck. "We gotta hurry kid. She's not doing too good."
"How did you get in here?" JD asked.
"Used the front door, of course. Pretended I was a computer nerd like you," Vin chuckled. He stopped talking when both men heard footsteps coming down the concrete floor. They heard a loud bang!
"God Dammit Ezra! Why didn't you wait in the freaking car?"
"Just because I am somewhat incapacitated at the moment does mean that I don't want to. . .."
"Somewhat incapacitated? Hell Ezra, you're lumbering around like you've had a few too many."
"Excuse me Mr. Whimlington, even when I have had a few too many select beverages, I do not lumber."
Vin and JD exchanged smiles when they first saw shadows on the walls and finally Buck and Ezra emerge from around a corner.
"Maybe we can head over to the saloon and find out," Vin chuckled when he saw their surprised look.
"Oh Lord Sidney," Ezra face turned white, as he walked over to his friends.
"Ella's been keeping her drugged. "She's got a fever, but I think she's okay. Know more when Nathan can take a look at her," he paused, "What the hell are you doing here?"
"I should be asking you the same thing," Ezra answered with a smile. "Change of heart?"
"Figured you were right about what you said before," Vin answered. "You ain't looking too good."
"You can thank your beloved superior agent for that," Ezra cringed.
"Gonna have a real goose egg on the head for a while," Buck smiled. "Nate wasn't too keen on letting him come done here."
JD's body protested against the strain, and began to shoot pain throughout his legs. He felt his own knees start to buckle and braced himself for the collapse to the ground. The gun slid out of pocket.
Buck caught him before he fell.
"What happened to you kid?" Buck asked, taking all of JD's weight.
JD and Vin quickly filled the men in on what happened.
"When I get my hands on Handsome Jack, nobody's going to recognize that pretty face of his," Buck growled.
"You're not the only one," Vin answered. "But we need to get these guys upstairs. Nathan is going to have his hands full. There are enough of them to make up the Bronco's injured reserve list."
"I think Doctor Jackson will find his schedule empty for quite for awhile," a cool deep voice stated.
A shadow came up behind them and got larger as it came closer.
"Averal," Vin growled quietly, as the man emerged. The dancing flames from the lamp made the attractive man look sinister. His gun was pointed at JD.
JD looked frantically at the gun that had fallen out of his pocket. Buck, still holding most of JD's weight, was in no position to grab his own weapon. Ezra slowly reached for hip, but Averal saw the movement.
"Don't think so Mr. Standish," he said quietly.
"All it would take is one bullet," Ezra answered, not lowering his hand.
'By the time you got one shot off," Averal answered. "I could get two shots off."
Ezra knew the man had a point and he lowered his hand dejectedly.
"What do you want?" Buck asked.
"I want my two million dollars from Miss Gaines, and I get that my taking out any threat to her or Mr. Larabee. Looks like I'm gong to take care of those threats right now."
The men were so completely absorbed in watching Averal, nobody noticed Sidney's eye open. The young woman awoke with blurry vision and a dry throat that prevented her from calling out. All she heard were familiar voices, and the distant approach of footsteps. Her ears zoned in on the noise. It was far away at first, but it echoed in her ears as it go closer.
"I was supposed to kill you awhile go Tanner. Think I'll take you and the girl first."
Her ears burned with the sound of a loud gunshot. She felt herself fall backwards into the wall and hit the ground with a crash. Something landed on top of her and pinned her face down. Her vision and mind began to clear and she realized that is was body on top of her. As she was gasping for breath, she felt her voice return
"Vin!" she cried.
All of a sudden the weight was gone and she felt herself flipped around. She was staring into a pair of green eyes.
"He's alright honey," Chris soothed. His heart ached when he saw how pale his friend was. All of a sudden, he was at a loss for words. He turned to see Vin kick the body off to the side then lean over his shoulder.
"Think the sedative is starting to wear off," he answered.
"That was a hell of a shot," JD stated. Buck had set him down on the ground.
Chris shrugged his shoulders and looked at all of them with a pained expression. He held the woman closer.
"I don't know how to. . .."
"We know Chris," Ezra stated.
"Shut the hell up Standish and let me do the talking for once," Chris growled.
Ezra obediently closed his mouth.
"I hurt every single one of you and. . .."
"What the hell happened down here?" The booming voice called.
Chris sighed at being interrupted again.
Soon Josiah and Nathan were with the group.
"We were waiting for backup outside and we heard the gunshot," Josiah explained.
Nathan took Sidney out of Chris's arms.
"She's malnourished and dehydrated. You two don't look so good yourselfs," he said to Ezra and JD. "Why did you wait so long to come and get me?"
"We were caught up in other engagements," Ezra answered, rolling his eyes.
"What's that smell?" Josiah asked all of a sudden.
"Smells like something's burning," JD answered.
"It's hot in here," Sidney moaned.
A flash of light forced them all to shield their eyes as sudden beads of sweat appeared on everyone's foreheads. Sudden realization hit.
"The place is on fire!" Buck yelled. "Get out of here now." He tossed JD over his shoulder and started to run for the exit. Nathan picked up Sidney followed. Ignoring the warning look of his friend, Josiah soon had Ezra over his shoulder.
A high pitched scream echoed throughout the basement.
Chris stopped dead in his tracks.
He took a couple of steps towards the place where the flame had started. His hand went up to shield his eyes from the blinding light. The skin on his face was starting to burn, but he didn't move.
Ella ran forward towards him. No longer was her hair neatly combed. It was frizzy and flying all over the place. Her usually confident eyes were crazed and glassy.
"Why?' Chris asked. "Why kill Sarah and Adam. They did nothing wrong!" His words choked. He ignored the blaze as it continued to get closer and closer.
"They stole you away from me!" She screamed back. "Just like they're trying to do now. I won't let it happen. We will die together now! Just the two of us!"
Ella collapsed to the ground in a heap.
Chris felt his knees start to quiver and his whole body go weak. It felt like his heart was going to rip in two.
"Just give up now. No more pain. No more pain. Just give it all up
Just as he was about to let himself go, Chris felt a strong hand on his shoulder. He turned to stare into a pair of hard blue eyes and he knew what they were saying.
"You hurt me once Larabee. You're not going to do it again
Chris nodded his head and began to follow Vin through the now blazing inferno. He couldn't remember a time when had ran so fast.
"God, I don't want to die now. Please Sarah, help me!"
He could feel his cotton shirt beginning to melt. He fought the urge to cry out in agony as his skin burned
Up ahead, he saw Vin lunge for a the only non burning wall. The Texan's hand grabbed onto their saving grace, a small window leading to outside. Chris watched at Vin punched through the glass and pulled himself through.
The agent rushed up to the window and tried to lunge up like Vin had, but the emotions and Ezra's beating had wiped him of all strength. He collapsed on the ground.
"Come on Chris!" Vin yelled, as he cleared more of the glass away.
"I can't!" Chris yelled.
"Give up now and you let her win!" Vin called.
Chris made no move.
"Fine! I didn't think you had it in you anyway, you bastard!"
The words burned in the blond. He quickly pulled himself to his feet and made a heroic attempt at the window. One hand grabbed onto the sill, but he felt himself loosing his grip.
A strong hand grabbed onto it. With Vin's help, he was able to get his other hand up and pull himself through.
Both men crawled onto their hands and knees away from the blaze. They laid on the ground and watched as the whole building caught fire, both to exhausted to move. After a few moments, the sound of sirens echoed in the evening air.
"You owe me big time Larabee," Vin panted, not moving.
"Vin I don't know how I would even begin to. . ."
"How about a beer?" Vin interrupted. "A nice big mug with lots of froth on top."
"A beer I can do."
CHAPTER THIRTEEN: Until Next Time
There was a knock on the office door.
"Come on in," Buck called, from his seat at his desk. He quickly slid the Sports Illustrated Swim Suit Edition he had been looking at under his desk.
Sidney gave him a stern look, but he just winked at her.
Virgil Watson walked into the office and looked at his team. He realized that one of them was absent.
"Where's Chris?" he asked.
"I'm right here Sir," Chris answered opening his office door. He turned a little pink at the ears when he realized that everyone was staring at him.
"Wow Boss," Sidney whistled.
Chris did look good, dressed in a pair of black pants and a white shirt he hadn't worn in quite a while.
"May I ask why?" Virgil asked, his eyes dancing.
"He's got a date tonight," Vin answered when he realized that Chris wasn't going to respond.
"Well, then I won't keep you folks long. I've got some information for you. Seems like all the security breeches in Denver were done of by Solaris enterprises. Gaines was using it a guise to get rich. She was doing the same thing with her company in Spain."
"Did they get the mess at the building all cleaned up?" Josiah asked.
Virgil hesitated, not sure if now was the time to reveal the information he had just learned.
"The building will be demolished tomorrow. You did a good job about getting those innocent workers out of there." he hesitated. "They only pulled one body out of the mess."
An eerie silence fell on the room as the agents digested what Virgil's statement meant.
Chris looked up.
"One?" he asked, hoarsely. "But that means. . ."
"They didn't find her Chris, but that doesn't mean that the flames didn't. . ."
'No," Chris answered firmly. "I don't know how, but she got out. If you didn't find her body, then she's still out there somewhere."
"And if she ever tries to hurt any of us again," Vin stated. "She won't be so lucky next time."
"Amen brother," Josiah replied.
"Next time," he agreed.
There was a loud knock on the door. This time Chris got up and to answer it.
Ezra, Nathan, and JD were standing in the doorway.
"Good evening gentlemen," Ezra greeted. "It is the end of the day, and we are here to escort the lovely Agent Marks to her doctor's appointment."
"I don't want to go there again," Sidney whined. "I'm fine."
"Yeah, you really looked fine when you were drugged up in my arms," Chris added. "You're going to the damn doctor, and that's an order Agent Marks."
"Yes Sir," Sidney answered, standing up and saluting.
"She eat today?" Nathan asked.
"Two subs and half a pizza," Buck answered. "We're taking good care of her Doctor."
"You work in here?" Ezra asked in degust as he tried to maneuver his way though the cramped office.
They all looked up to see Mary Travis standing in the doorway. She looked beautiful in a simple red dress, but she had a worried look on her face.
"What's wrong Mary?" Chris asked, instantly by her side.
'Billy's babysitter just called. She's too sick to come over tonight. I think I'm going to have to cancel our dinner date."
"That won't be necessary Mrs. Travis," Sidney stated, standing up in front of her desk.
Mary stared hard at the young woman. Where had she heard that voice before?
"We have some excellent child care services," JD continued. "Sidney and I would be more than happy to watch your son for the evening."
Mary stared hard at the two young people. Suddenly it came to her. On a rooftop a couple of weeks ago, they had handed her a video tape.
"I don't understand," Mary stated, looking around at everyone in the room. "You are all. . .you mean that. . ."
Chris put a hand on the woman's shoulder.
"I think I've got some explaining to do."
+ + + + + + +
Virgil Watson watched as they all went their separate ways. Josiah, Vin and Buck, and Nathan's trucks went off to their own endeavors. Chris and Mary were off to the one of the most exclusive restaurants in Denver, and the black Cadillac left with an extra ten year old passenger in tow.
He shook his head when he realized how close he had come to loosing them all. What the hell was he going to tell Orin? The conversation evolved in his mind.
"Orrin, Chris Larabee and the others? Well you see, once of Chris's former girlfriends showed up. . ..and to make a long story short, they almost got themselves blown up."
The AD smiled. He was not going to bring up that conversation unless the Senator asked. He wondered why the hell he had left his nice nine to five job at Langley and volunteered for this constant headache.
He was surprised to see the Cadillac pull up. The passenger side window rolled down.
Sidney's head stuck out.
"Thank you Director," She said.
"For what?" he asked.
"For calling Liam. He told me that it was you who told him where I would be."
"You're welcome," Virgil answered. He answered his own question.