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by LaraMee

Alternate Universe "Negotiations"

Disclaimer: I own no rights to anything Magnificent Seven and mean no infringement upon the rights of those who do.

Rating: FRT, P, V

Warnings: Well, besides the fact that this is my first dive into this AU? There is mention of nudity and scenes of violence (not quite torture, but nasty at times). If this bothers you, I wouldn’t read it.

The Negotiations AU was created by Sasha. You may want to read her premiere story, Negotiations, for background on this incarnation of the characters.

Notes: I’ve wanted to work in this AU ever since Sasha created it. I’m excited that I finally got a plot bunny. So this is dedicated to Sasha and the other Chris fen out there! Hope you enjoy it!

Chris Larabee grumbled as he moved toward the front door of his home. His service dog Sam, a black lab, was already at the door, waiting patiently for his wheelchair bound master. The big dog sat still, the only movement was from his tail, softly thumping against the hardwood floor.

Rolling to the door, Chris motioned the dog aside. Opening the door only as far as the door chain would allow, he regarded the figure outside critically. The man was dressed all in a non-descript mix of browns and beiges. The blond frowned, trying to decide what the man wanted. He hadn’t ordered anything. Huffing out an impatient breath, he asked, “Can I help you?”

“Mr. Larabee? Chris Larabee?” The man asked. He hadn’t raised his head yet, intently studying his clipboard.

“That’s me.”

“I have a special delivery for you, sir.”

“There’s a mistake somewhere. I’m not expecting a delivery.”

“This was sent by a… Buck Wilmington. Will you accept the delivery?”

His frown deepening, Chris tried to figure out what sort of prank his old friend was playing now. Shrugging, he said, “As long as it’s not C.O.D.”

“No, sir, it’s all taken care of.” The man shifted his clipboard, passing a small, square package through the opening. When the blond took the package, he turned the clipboard, pressing it forward as well. “If you could sign right there on the line…”

“Sure.” He reached out for the pen the man offered. As he took hold of it, he barely registered the sharp pinprick before a burning sensation began to spread from his finger, across his hand, and started up his arm.

“What the hell!” The blond recoiled, and then grabbed the door, moving to slam it shut. He was surprised once more as the ‘delivery man’ planted his shoulder against the wood, at the same time grabbing the doorframe for leverage as he forced the door open and snapping the chain. With a harsh noise, part cry and part growl, the disabled man found himself flying backward, his wheelchair lurching to one side. He felt himself tumbling, landing in a heap on the floor. He tried to respond, but found the burning sensation spreading across his body, leaving him unable to move. Larabee heard a deep, vicious growl and knew that Sam was responding to the threat against him.

What little spark of hope the paraplegic had was dashed as he heard a hard *crack* followed by a startled yelp from his companion animal. Then he realized that the world was spinning much quicker than it had been, leaving him dizzy and nauseous. It became hard to breathe, and with a frightening speed, the world went black.

Chris Larabee’s attacker stepped over the prone canine and stood over the unconscious man, smiling coldly. He retrieved a large, heavy canvas duffle bag, neatly folded under one arm. Shaking it out, he squatted down at the man’s feet. With a practiced efficiency he opened the duffle and began pulling it up over the limp form.

Several minutes later the brown-clad figure struggled from the door under his heavy burden. The large duffle, the top drawn tightly closed, was slung over one shoulder as he shuffled toward a non-descript brown delivery van. He dropped the bag unceremoniously inside the rear compartment, slamming the door firmly. Jogging back up the walk, he pulled the door closed and hurried back toward the van. Climbing behind the wheel, he shifted into ‘drive’ and sped away down the street.


Five members of the elite Negotiations Team sat, growing more and more impatient when the phone didn’t ring. Nathan had gone out to check on Chris, when it rolled around to nearly 10:00 am and he hadn’t shown up to work yet. Nor was he answering either his phone or his cell. Nathan insisted on being the one to check on their boss, in the event it was health related. The paraplegic’s former physical therapist would be the best to help him if it was.

When Buck’s phone sounded, the others jumped to their feet and hurried over to the mustached man’s desk. He answered the phone, putting it on speakerphone immediately.


“Yeah, I’m here at Chris’ place. It’s not good.”

“Damn it, spill it!” Wilmington barked through the speaker. He shook Josiah’s hand from his shoulder.

“He’s not here, but his chair is. Sam’s unconscious, too. Looks like someone hit him hard with something.”

“Is there any sign that Chris was injured?” Vin asked.

“Other than the fact that his chair is tipped over, nothing’s out of order as far as I can tell.”

“Damn it! What the hell happened to him?!” Buck spit out the words angrily, not expecting, nor getting, an answer. The other men looked as irate as he was.

“We’re not going to find out here, let’s get over to the house and check it out,” Vin said, his voice soft and dangerous. “We’ll find out what happened… and God help whoever did it.”


He moved a little closer to consciousness with each breath. As he awoke, his senses returned, a little at a time. Managing to open his eyes, he found the world around him spinning out of control at a nauseating rate leaving him in the middle of a kaleidoscope of colors and vague shapes. Slowly those shapes and colors resolved, becoming things familiar to him.

Next came pain, spiking and ebbing as his body followed his mind into wakefulness. And he was cold. Looking downward he realized that he was completely naked, naked and sitting in a tub. Just beyond his outstretched legs, water was dripping from a faucet in a thin stream. There were a couple of inches of cold water in the porcelain tub now, and building one drop at a time. Looking upward, he saw his arms stretched above him and fastened by a pair of handcuffs to a thick hook. While the hook was open, it was positioned too far above for him to lift the chain off. Without the use of his legs the chain could just as well have been bolted to the wall.

“What the hell…” he murmured to himself. He looked around at the room, trying to figure out where he was. That he was in a bathroom was evident, but beyond that there was no indication. The room was large, the fixtures old and stained, an air of age surrounding everything around him.

“Welcome to your nightmare.” Came a voice.

Larabee’s head snapped up and he found himself staring at a slender, non-descript man. Frowning he asked, “Who the hell are you?”

“What, don’t you recognize me? I suppose it has been a while… Detective Larabee.”

Frown deepening, the blond tried to put a name to the face before him. Although the features were vaguely familiar there was nothing about the man standing across the bathroom that he could say he recognized. “From where I’m sitting, you’re just another punk,” he spat out.

With a growl, the man leapt across the room, one fist plowing into Chris’ face. The blond’s head snapped back, impacting on the tile wall with an audible crack. He saw stars for several seconds, taking a few gasping breaths until he could focus once more.

“Does that make you feel tough?” Larabee asked, spitting a wad of blood over the side of the tub. “Punching a cripple with his hands tied. Is that the only way you can win a fight… little man?”

“Fuck you!” His captor screamed, red-faced.

Chris saw the man’s fists flying, felt the blows raining down on his unprotected body. He could do nothing but cry out as blow after blow struck him, the sound of flesh hitting flesh competing with his grunts and his attacker’s growls.

Then it was over.

Larabee hung limp, held upright only by his bound wrists. He was panting, moaning as the pain set in, intensifying with each breath. When he could hear something beyond his own breathing, he heard rapid footsteps, beating a tattoo across the parquet floor. Finally managing to raise his head, he saw the other man pacing back and forth across the floor. The vision of a caged animal came to mind, and if he had any doubts, he didn’t any longer.

He was dealing with a madman.


Josiah pulled up in front of Chris Larabee’s bungalow, returning from the vet. While the other members of the team were searching Larabee’s home for clues, he had taken Sam to the hospital. The Lab had yet to regain consciousness, his black fur coated with blood down one side of his head.

Entering the house, he was greeted by the others with “How is he?” Shaking his head, he said, “Whatever he was hit with gave him a concussion and a three inch gash, but the vet says he should make a full recover.”

“Good,” Buck said softly. “As grouchy as Chris is, I’d hate for him to have to train another dog to deal with his moods.”

The others didn’t respond; the mention of their friend and leader sending icy tendrils of fear down their backs. Finally JD found his voice and said to the gray-haired man, “we haven’t found anything to give us a clue as to who took Chris or why.”

Hanging his head, Josiah rubbed the back of his neck. “Maybe we need to call in the locals.”

Shrugging his shoulders, Buck said, “They don’t have any equipment or know-how that we don’t have, nothing that will give them the edge to find him. Plus, they don’t have one thing that we have, that will give us… and Chris… an advantage.”

“Which is?” Ezra asked.

“A missing friend… someone we care about. We’ll put far more effort into it than the local boys will.”

The others looked at one another then nodded. Wilmington was right.


Chris sat, head back against the cool tile, staring toward the ceiling. While his body was still, his mind raced with thoughts of escape. Every plan, however, involved the use of his legs. While the doctors kept telling him that it wasn’t impossible that – in time – he could learn to move with the aid of braces and crutches, there wasn’t a chance in hell he would suddenly be able to stand up and walk out of here.

He tilted his head back, staring up at his manacled hands. His wrists were bloodied from trying to get himself out of the cuffs. He hissed in pain as he twisted them in yet another effort to free himself. All he managed to do was to tear more flesh from his wrists.

Heaving a deep, angry breath, Larabee forced himself to relax. Looking down he saw that the water continued to rise. He realized that he was beginning to shiver as his body temperature steadily dropped.

The sound of an opening door alerted him to the return of his attacker. He let his chin drop to his chest, hoping to buy time if the man thought he was out. He heard footsteps come closer, stop, and then begin again. As they retreated once more, he waited for several moments before slanting his eyes open. Seeing that he was alone once more he leaned back, returning his stare to the ceiling.


They had given up finding anything at Larabee’s home, some of them going to canvas the neighborhood, while the others returned to their offices to look for possible leads. JD checked things out on Chris’ computer; Vin got phone records for the last week for Larabee’s home and office phones, while Buck went through his mail.

After nearly an hour, Dunne yelled out, “Hey! Get in here, now!”

The other two men made a made dash for Larabee’s office, joining the young computer expert before the flat screen monitor. They looked at him curiously when all they saw was what looked like spam. Then, peering closer they read the text, both men cursing under their breath at what they saw.

Come Watch Me On My Webcam!

My name is Chris

I’m naked, and waiting for you to join me!

Check me out, you’ll be surprised

At what you see!

Dunne moved the cursor and clicked on the embedded link highlighting the name “Chris”.

A new window opened on the screen and they suddenly found themselves looking at a live feed, showing the man they were looking for. Buck spoke for them all when he uttered, “God damn it!”

The camera was slanting down from what they assumed was the ceiling, aimed across the room to where Chris laid, battered and bloodied, in an old-fashioned bathtub. His arms were above his head, angled slightly behind him and held rigid by handcuffs wrapped around a large hook. His head was back, eyes closed, but they could tell by the rigid posture of his body that he wasn’t asleep. They could also see the tremors that shook his long frame from time to time, sending ripples through the water that was about half way up the side of the tub.

“Jesus! What the hell’s goin’ on?” Vin growled. “Who the hell’s doin’ this ta Chris?”

Shaking his head, Buck said, “I don’t know Junior, but they’re gonna pay.” Turning to the young computer expert, Wilmington asked, “Can you figure out where this is coming from?”

Unable to take his eyes from the screen, JD nodded. Finally he said, “Yeah, I can. I’ll go to my terminal; they’re tapped into this one...”

“Don’t bother explaining, you know I can’t understand half of what you’re telling me,” Buck growled automatically. As JD vacated the chair, he slipped into it, studying the picture intently. He barely acknowledged it when Vin leaned down next to him, blue eyes focused on the man in the picture as well.

“Wish the picture was a little wider,” Tanner said softly as he pointed to a spot on the screen, “looks like we got some natural light there on the left.”


“More ‘n likely. Might be a landmark out there, if we could just git a look.”

“If he’s around here.”

“Cain’t be more ‘n hundred fifty, two hundred miles at the most. Takin’ in how busted up Chris is, probably more like hundred, hundred - fifty.”

“Yeah, but which direction?” Buck wondered aloud.

“That I cain’t tell ya,” Vin replied with a sigh.


His abductor was back. Deciding that he wanted to try and get to the bottom of this craziness, Larabee raised his head and leveled a glare at the man. “I hope that whatever led you to do this is worth the rest of your life.”

Snorting, the young man retorted, “It’s whoever, and you stole my life a long time ago. Sure you don’t remember me?”

“Boy, if I did, I’d have said so by now.”

Sitting on the edge of the tub, the man dipped his fingers into the water, hissing and pulling them back dramatically. “Damn, that is cold, isn’t it?”

“Funny man. You should be a comedian,” the blond growled. His words earned him another bruise as the man hit him in the jaw.


DAMN YOU, YOU SONOVABITCH!” Buck screamed at the screen as their friend’s assailant delivered several blows to the bound man. They tried to identify the culprit, but he managed to keep his back to the screen.

Vin gripped the bigger man’s arm. “Don’t lose it, Bucklin… that’s what the bastard wants. To throw us off balance.”

Drawing in a shuddering breath, the mustached man nodded. “Yeah, I know. I know you’re right, but…”

Giving the man’s arm a squeeze, Tanner said, “We’re gonna find ‘im, Buck. And that bastard’s gonna pay for every bruise he puts on Chris.”


Larabee groaned softly then coughed, tasting blood and bile as he did. Spitting over the side of the tub he leaned back against the tile, head lolling to the side to rest against his arm. Panting, he slanted a gaze at the stranger bent on torturing him. “Wh… what the hell… is your pr… problem?” He asked between harsh breaths.

“You’re my problem. Just like you’ve been my problem for the last ten years.” The man ground out through gritted teeth.

Chris stared up at his attacker, trying to make sense of the comment. Ten years? That would have been right about the time he had made detective on the DPD. “Ten years… you couldn’t have b-been… adult back… then. You’d have… been a… juv-“

“I was a juvenile, Detective. Jesus, did all those years of drinking fry your brain that bad?” The man bit out.

Snorting, ignoring the spray of blood that came from his nose, Larabee replied, “Doesn’t… take a… g-genius to know… that… I… drink.”

“Yes… ever since your family died in that wreck. So, so sad. Knocked the legs right out from under you, didn’t it?”

Chris forced himself to ignore the cold-hearted jibe. “So you know… my his… history. What of it? You bring… bring me here to p-play… this is your life?”

“No… I brought you here to suffer… and to die. And I’m making damn sure your friends know just how much of a coward you are when it comes to your life.”

“You sure as hell… don’t know me well then. You’d kn-know that my life… isn’t… isn’t that im… portent to me.”

“No, but your dignity is. Chris Larabee has a reputation as a hard-ass. He wouldn’t want his friends to know just what a lame bastard he is.”

“Are you going to… just keep making… stupid jokes… or are you gonna… gonna tell me who… the hell you… are?”

“Neither. But since you’re supposed to be a detective, I’ll give you a clue.” He paused but received nothing more than a weak imitation of Larabee’s normal glare. Huffing when he saw that the battered man wasn’t going to play his game he said, “Dalton Street, ten years ago tomorrow, and the initials EK.”


Buck had scribbled down those clues, and then pushed out of the chair. As he moved quickly toward the door, he said, “Keep an eye on things, I’m gonna go see if I can get anything.”

Vin nodded, slipping into the chair and leaning forward, his elbows on the desk. In a barely audible tone, he encouraged his friend, “C’mon, Cowboy, you can beat this. That scrawny sonovabitch isn’t worth yer spit. You jist hang in there, we’re gonna find you.”


His torturer was gone, leaving him alone with his thoughts. Leaning back, he stared at the ceiling as he tried to put together the clues the maniac had given him. He scoured his memory, trying to force himself to remember what had happened ten years ago on Dalton Street.


Buck looked up as the door to their suite of offices opened, the other members of their team hurrying in. He had called them, giving them what details they had on the kidnapping. They had had no success in Larabee’s neighborhood; none of the neighbors had seen or heard a thing out of the ordinary.

“Anything yet?” Josiah asked.

Shaking his head, Wilmington said, “I haven’t found anything in the database from ten years ago on Dalton Street… nothin’ on anyone with the initials EK.”

“Are we certain that those are someone’s initials?” Ezra asked. “They could be almost anything – a store, a code, anything.”

With a groan, Buck dropped his head into his hands. “You’re right, Ace. Okay, reckon I’ll start at the beginning.”

Giving the other man’s shoulder a compassionate squeeze, Josiah offered, “I’ll go to my terminal and see if I can find anything as well. Two sets of eyes are better than one.”

Nodding without lifting his head, the mustached man muttered, “Thanks, ‘Siah.”

“Ezra and I will start making some calls. Maybe we can get a lead from some of the people Chris worked with back then,” Nathan said, canting his head to the smaller man. They left Buck’s side, going to their own desks.


Vin hadn’t taken his eyes off the computer screen, as if he was afraid that something more would happen if he wasn’t watching Chris every second. In all that time, Larabee had simply lain there, staring at the ceiling. He could hear the soft splash of water as the nude man trembled with ever growing intensity. From time to time a soft moan came from the man as well. If they didn’t figure out where he was soon, Chris was going to succumb to hypothermia before they could rescue him.

The Texan’s deep, blue eyes darted to one side of the picture at the sound of someone coming in the door. He watched as Larabee’s captor entered the room, still making certain that he kept his back to the camera.


“W-w-what the h-h-hell do you wa-wa-want?” Chris asked, his voice trembling from the cold.

“My, my my… are you still alive?”

“Dis… disa… appointed?”

Shrugging, the man replied, “Not really. It doesn’t matter. You’ll be dead before your friends find you. Until then I’ll just enjoy your company.”

“S-sorry I can’t… s-say… the same,” Larabee replied, his voice raspy.

“Still a cocky son of a bitch, aren’t you? Just like you were… back then. That ‘holier than thou’ attitude. Well, detective, what would you say if I told you that you’re being videoed right now?”

Frowning, Chris could only manage, “W-w-w-what?”

Gesturing behind him, the man said, “Look right up there, detective Larabee, and smile. You’re on candid camera!”

Larabee listened to the man laugh, a harsh, brittle sound. He shivered, but not from the cold. He was dealing with a sociopath. Then his attention was zoomed in on the small device he saw in the corner of the room.

He was being video taped.


“You slimy ass bastard,” Vin growled through clenched teeth as he continued to watch his friend suffering at the hands of his unknown assailant. He watched as Chris turned his attention toward the camera, his glare evident even at this distance. “Keep fightin’ Pard. We’re gonna find ya… don’t give up.”


Larabee stared hard at the camera, wondering who this maniac was sending the picture to. “W-w-who… who’s wa-watch…ing?”

Grinning down at him the man gloated, “Who do you think? The men who work for you, of course. They’re watching their bad ass boss lying here, naked, bleeding all over the place… and as helpless as a baby.”

“Th-they’ve s-s-seen me… worse,” Chris lied. “Th-they won’t… won’t care.”

“Aww… poor Chris Larabee. Nobody cares about you. Bull shit. If you haven’t figured it out already, I’ve done my homework. Your team… your magnificent seven… was handpicked by you. They’re your trained dogs.”

The blond forced a bark of laughter through chattering teeth. “Y-your re… research is f-f-f-flawed. Th-they barely l-l-listen to me. They w-w-won’t give a sh-sh-shit about wh-what happ… happens to me.”

Liar! I know you, Christopher Adam Larabee. I know you!” Red-faced, the man began once more to hit the blond. He didn’t stop until his captive hung limp from his bound wrists, blood dripping into the tub. Still infuriated at the man’s insolence, he stormed away, running from the bathroom.


Vin watched as, lost in the rage of the moment, the bastard turned, giving him a clear shot of the man’s profile. Grinning as he clicked the mouse, Tanner gloated, “Got’cha, ya dumb sonovabitch!”

Using the technology at their disposal, the Texan sent the saved shot to the printer. Leaving his seat only long enough to retrieve it from the tray, he hurried back to the chair. Sighing as he saw the blond was shivering even harder and was now unconscious, he begged, “Hang on Chris… jist hang on.”

The sound of a door crashing open alerted Tanner to the fact Larabee’s abductor was returning. He watched, a sudden chill spreading over him. Something was going to happen… something worse than they had witnessed so far. Watching the man approach the tub, he murmured, “What th’ hell are ya doin’?”


Chris coughed and spluttered as he was shocked back to awareness by cold water splashed in his face. Managing to form a wavering glare, he ground out, “W-w-what now?”

Instead of answering, the other man held up an ice pick. “So… my research says that you can’t feel anything below mid-thigh… is that right?”

“G-go to h-h-h-hell.”

“Of course this isn’t completely fair. I’m sure you’re getting pretty numb, huh?” He lowered the ice pick, tracing it slowly down one long, pale leg. Reaching a spot slightly above the man’s knee, he grinned as he pressed the tip down, just slightly. “Tell me, detective, do you feel that?”

Chris didn’t answer; he simply stared at the man. He didn’t feel the ice pick, but wouldn’t have given it away if he had. He wasn’t going to give the man the satisfaction.

“How about this?” The man put his weight behind the slender, pointed shaft of steel. Slowly the ice pick disappeared into the half-frozen limb. As blood began to slowly spread into the water, slowed by the temperature, but bleeding nonetheless. The crazed man began to laugh.

Staring down at the gradually spreading stain of crimson, Chris found himself fascinated by the blood. Mesmerized, he watched it as it seemed to take over his world. Part of him cursed, realizing that the cold water would slow, but not stop, his bleeding to death. Given enough time, he could bleed out through that tiny hole.

His attacker seemed to have read his mind. “I’d say I could keep you alive for a while… maybe a day? Oh, I suppose it would stop from time to time but,” he rocked the ice pick back and forth, widening the hole, “if I’m diligent, I’m sure I can get you to die from this little wound… if not from the cold.”

“F-f-f-ucking… bas… bas… bastard,” Chris managed through chattering teeth. He expected the answering blow to come quickly… almost hoped for it. For all his bravado the last thing he wanted to face was having his friends watch him like this. He’d rather just die now if that was his fate. Through those dark thoughts Larabee realized he didn’t feel anything. Looking up, he saw something he never expected to see. His kidnapper was standing there, tears in his eyes.

“Damn you!” He hissed. “Damn you! You can’t say that… I’m not a bastard. I have a father… I had a father. And I still would if it hadn’t been for you… Detective Larabee.”

Larabee marshaled his features, not letting his response to that disclosure show. With a suddenness that sent his mind reeling, the pieces snapped into place. To his relief, although the ice pick was still protruding from his leg, the distraught man bolted from the room.

Raising his gaze, Chris tried to focus on the camera across the room. Things were beginning to blur as the flesh around his eyes began to swell from the beatings. Taking a deep breath, he pitched his voice as loud as he dared; as loud as he was able to at the moment. “Eli Kowalski… ten y-years ago. I t-t-t-took him down… f-f-front yard of his ho-home. No ch-choice… he was thre…threatening his wife. They lived on Dalton Street. Can’t… can’t remember… kid’s name. He… he witnessed… it.” With that his eyes rolled back in his head and he went limp as he lost consciousness.


Tanner growled as he watched his friend pass out. Scribbling down the information he was given, he leapt to his feet, the chair crashing into the wall behind him. Sprinting across the room, he called out, “Got somethin’!”

By the time Vin arrived in the main part of their suite, he found four sets of eyes staring at him. Waving the picture of Chris’ assailant and the information the blond had given them, he said, “He figgered out the clues. Still don’t know where the fucking son of a bitch has him, but we know who he is.”

The Texan filled the others in on the events that had just transpired. When he finished, he could see that they were just as concerned as he was. Time was running out.

“Found them!”

The men turned toward their youngest. JD was just printing something off and stood behind his terminal, beaming. “I managed to locate them. I had to piggyback – “

“JD, later,” Buck urged. “Give us the information so we can go get Chris.”

Grabbing the papers from the printer tray, Dunne said, “I just printed out the directions. According to the mile count, we should be able to get there in less than an hour.”

“What are we waitin’ fer?” Vin asked. “Let’s go!”

“I should be able to tap into the feed from the terminal in the van,” JD informed them. “We can keep track of what’s happening.”

“We’ve got the emergency supplies in the van, too,” Nathan added. “We should be good to go, whatever we find.”

“I’ll grab Chris’ extra clothes out of his office,” Vin commented. “They’re sweats and he’s gonna need warmin’ up.”

“All right, meet up in the van in ten minutes. Let’s go rescue the boss.” Josiah suggested.

Nodding as one, the men hurried off to complete their tasks. Eight minutes and fifteen seconds later they met at the van. Silent, their minds on their kidnapped friend, they settled into the big vehicle. Behind the wheel, Buck coaxed the engine alive, and they were pulling out of the parking garage.


“Wake up.”

The blond stirred slightly, head rolling from one shoulder to the other. He moaned, but otherwise didn’t respond.

“I said, wake up!”

One eye cracked open, searched for something to look at, then closed again when there was nothing to see.

“Larabee! Wake up!”

“L-l-l-leave m-me a… a… alone.”

“Wake up!”

“F-f-f-f-uck… fuck you.” He ground out. Suddenly he felt himself jerked forward, pulled away from the wall as far as his bound arms would allow. He cried out, but the sound was far too weak… the sound of death approaching.

“You bastard, don’t you die on me. I’m not ready for you to die yet. Get it?” Eli Kowalski’s son said in a too calm voice. “I’m ready to have some more fun… and I need you for that.” With that, the man positioned Chris in the tub so that most of his weight was supported by his outstretched arms.

“Sorry… I-I-I’m not in… in… in the… m-m-m-mood f-for games-s-s-s.”

Leaning forward until he was nose to nose with the battered man, the kidnapper said, “I’m sorry… you don’t have a vote.”



The five other men in the van turned in shock at the uncharacteristic display of emotion that came from the typically cool Southerner. First to find his voice, Josiah asked, “What is it, Ezra?”

“The foul fiend has stepped up his torture.”

Vin moved around so that he could watch the monitor. His response was even more succinct than Standish’s. “Fuck!”

Kowalski was giggling; a high pitched sound of near hysteria. He had placed a cinder block on Larabee’s abdomen, the weight putting even more of a strain on the man’s arms. The men all found themselves holding their breath as Chris hissed and then groaned as the full force of the heavy weight registered in his fog-filled mind.

“You lousy, fucking, son of a bitch,” JD spit out, taking his attention away from the second monitor, where he was looking for information on Larabee’s abductor.

Putting a fatherly hand on the young man’s shoulder, Josiah, said, “He’ll serve his penance for everything we’ve witnessed.”

Dunne looked up at the gray-haired man, seeing something in those wise, blue eyes. He realized that the profiler wasn’t speaking of serving a legal penance. The older man was speaking in the biblical sense. Swallowing hard, he nodded mutely.


Chris sucked in a shuddering breath, gasping and nearly gagging as pain flared through his body, radiating from his belly. His wrists and arms screamed as tendons and muscles were stretched and strained. Tears burned the bruised and scraped flesh around his eyes, but he barely noticed them. All he saw was the smiling face of the man standing over him. He tried to speak, but couldn’t draw a breath deep enough to form the words.

“Awww… what’s the matter, detective? Does it hurt?” He giggled again, that high-pitched, hysterical sound that emphasized his insanity even more. Reaching out a long-fingered hand, he gently stroked the blond’s face. As that hand ran lightly over the bruised features he continued. “Poor… poor Chris. You’ve lost so much… your family… your legs… your dignity. Tell me… how does it feel? How does it feel to be totally… completely… helpless?”

He couldn’t help it, he cried out as, with each of the last three words, the man pressed down on the brick. Struggling to draw a breath… to cough… to curse his attacker, Chris found himself unable to do anything. All he could do was lay there, feeling his muscles strain and pull as the pressure continued.


“What the hell’s goin’ on back there?” Buck yelled over his shoulder as he continued to navigate the van along the highway. “What’s happening?”

Nathan, closest to the front of the van, leaned forward and gripped the other man’s broad shoulder. “You drive… we’ll fill you in later.”

“God damn it!” Wilmington growled. He didn’t ask any more questions, though. Instead he called out to JD, “Anything on Kowalski, Kid?”

“Not much. Eli Kowalski was a minor player in some local thug action. Collecting protection money, roughing up people who didn’t pay… that sort of thing.”

“Bottom line,” Buck ordered.

“Chris and his partner… David – “

“Miller. Bottom line,” Wilmington repeated.

“Shut up and let me get to it then!” Dunne yelled. Then he stopped and took a deep breath as Josiah’s hands gripped his shoulders, rubbing them slowly to release the tension. Closing his eyes, he continued.

“Chris and Miller were trying to arrest Kowalski. They found him at his home and moved in to make the arrest. They didn’t expect the response they go. Kowalski greeted them at the front door, his wife in front of him like a shield. She was seven or eight months pregnant and he was holding a gun to her stomach.

“They tried for over an hour to get him to release the woman but he wouldn’t. Finally, Chris saw a chance and took a shot. Wounded Kowalski and got the wife free. It was only then that they noticed the boy, around ten or twelve years old, watching from the window.

“The wife lost the baby that night. Kowalski went to prison and their son went into foster care while his mother was recovering. She never did, not fully and was in and out of institutions until about a year ago. She committed suicide.

“Their son, Peter Kowalski, was in and out of the foster care system until he aged out. Then he was in and out of jail on penny ante charges. He also spent time in a psychiatric hospital… just released three months ago.”

“And then he started huntin’ for Chris,” Vin said softly.


Peter Kowalski backed away from the tub watching the water once more darken with his captive’s blood that oozed up from the wound in his leg. He was disappointed that the man had stopped making all but the most rudimentary sounds. Still, Larabee’s eyes were open just enough that he could see the pain reflected in those murky depths.

“Not so cocky now, are you?” He gloated. “Not so easy to be a hard ass when you can’t even draw a breath is it? That’s how my old man felt the last three years of his life. They said it was emphysema, but I don’t believe it… never did. He was a strong man… strong and brave… until you took him away.

“I used to make Mom take me to see him whenever she wasn’t locked up in some nuthouse. She didn’t wanna go… said she didn’t ever wanna see Dad again. But I could always make her change that weak, fucking mind of hers.” He pounded a fist into an open palm, leaving no doubt as to what he meant.

Chris slowly processed the demented man’s words, his mind growing so foggy that he could barely put together a thought.

“My old man, he was the best. He could do anything… anything! He taught me how to fish, how to hunt, how to play ball… and how to hurt people before they hurt you. Only he didn’t get the chance to do that to you, detective Larabee. You hurt him first. But now I get to even the score.”

Larabee mourned silently for the young man before him. He cried out for the child so damaged that his only hero was a two-bit hood.

Peter watched the swollen eyes close, watched the man draw a breath and then slowly go limp. He began to laugh once more as he sing-songed, “Sweet dreams Chris Larabee… sweet dreams in Hell – “


Kowalski whipped around, his mouth and eyes wide in shock. He watched as six men suddenly filled the room, each one of them pointing a gun at him. Finding his voice, he screamed, “NO! No damn it! No!”

Ignoring the man’s protests, the men quickly surrounded him. “Vin, Josiah, drag this piece of garbage out of here,” Buck ordered, taking command of the situation. “Ezra, go put that silver tongue of yours to work getting the little bastard locked up. “JD, go with him…”

“But,” Dunne started.

Cutting him off with an outstretched hand, Wilmington said, “I know you all wanna make sure the boss is okay, but we’ve gotta think of him right now. I’ve seen him in about every shape there is, and Nathan’s the doc. We have to be here. But the rest of you…”

JD nodded when his friend trailed off. “We’ll take care of things.”

Nodding Buck and offering up a smile, the bigger man said, “I know you will, ya big stud.”

“Buuuuck!” Dunne lamented as the bigger man swatted him on the back of the head.

“Y’all take care of ‘im,” Vin added in a worried tone as he and Josiah herded the still raving kidnapper out the door.

Buck nodded even as he turned and hurried toward the medic and their injured friend. Nathan had already removed the block from Larabee’s torso.

“I need you to support his weight so I can get these cuffs off the hook,” Jackson instructed.

They quickly had Chris free of his porcelain prison, lifting him gently from the tub. Nathan had already laid out a thick bath sheet on the floor and they settled the blond on it. Buck supported the man’s head and shoulders, while Jackson carefully began to clean away the blood and dried the water that covered most of the long, lean body.

“He’s so cold, Nate,” Buck lamented.

“I know. We’ve gotta warm him up slow.”

A breathless, raspy moan escaped swollen, blue lips. Both men looked to see their friend moving toward consciousness.

“Na… Nathan?” Chris whispered as he tried to lift his head.

“Lay still, pard, you’re gonna be okay. Just let ol’ Nate take care of you.”

Trying to crane his neck, searching for the other man, Larabee murmured, “B… uck?”

“In the all too handsome flesh, stud,” Wilmington tried to lift the mood. Then, growing serious, he said, “We’ve got Kowalski. The boys are gonna see he gets what he deserves.”

“No… n-not his… f-fault,” The blond managed. “J-just a b-b-boy.”

Gently kneading the trembling shoulders, Wilmington disagreed. “He was a boy ten years ago, Chris. The man who did this to you… he made a choice. He chose to follow in daddy’s footsteps. Now he’ll get just what daddy got.”

“N-n-never h-had a ch-ch-chance,” Larabee argued. He wanted to say more, but couldn’t find the strength to force the words passed trembling lips. Instead he felt himself relaxing as his body began to register the slowly spreading warmth. With a sigh he settled back against his old friend, half listening to the other two men as they discussed his health.

“Nate, what about the ice pick? Shouldn’t we get it out?”

Shaking his head, the dark-skinned man replied, “No, we don’t wanna make things worse. We’ll just immobilize it and let them take it out at the hospital.”

“But the sweats… “

“We’ll split the leg open.” Jackson paused, looking into the handsome, worried face. “He’s gonna be all right, Buck.”

Nathan opened his medic’s pack and retrieved gauze and bandage material. Carefully he wrapped it around the object protruding from Larabee’s thigh. Quickly and efficiently immobilizing the ice pick, he retrieved the sweat pants and slit one leg. While Buck continued to support the limp, shivering body, he began to dress their friend.

A soft moan announced that the movements, even as gentle as they were, had roused the blond. “Hurts… s-s-stop,” Chris all but begged, his voice raspy.

Brushing the damp hair back from his friend’s pale forehead, Buck said, “Sh, it’s okay, Pard. I know it hurts, but Nate’s just trying to get you warmed up. I know people see ya as a cold bastard, but this is ridiculous.”

Larabee managed a weak smile in answer to Wilmington’s jest. “A-a-asssss hole,” He stammered through chattering teeth. Then he lapsed into silence, resting contentedly in his old friend’s embrace.

Shaking his head at the two men, Jackson carefully finished dressing the naked man. Adjusting the thick sweatshirt, he said, “Well, this is the best we’re gonna be able to do. Now we’ve just got to wait for the ambulance.”

As if on cue, Vin Tanner poked his head in the door. “Ambulance’s here.”



Buck Wilmington stood in the open doorway, quietly staring into the bedroom. Chris Larabee lay quiet on the bed, exhausted from the drive home.

They had taken him to the nearest hospital, a clinic, really, but the injured man’s care couldn’t have been better at Denver General. The others had gone home the next evening, but he had stayed with Chris until he was ready to be discharged. When that had happened, he had brought his old friend home in a rental car. Larabee had slept most of the way home, thanks to the pain medication he was still on. He had roused when Buck had shifted him into his wheelchair, not even arguing when he was pushed into the house.

There, Sam had met them, still a little wobbly and sporting a bandage on one side of his head. He seemed to be all right though; Josiah said he was getting stronger every day. Wilmington had barely stifled a smile at the look that lit up his friend’s face upon seeing the dog.

“Sam!” Chris called, reaching out and carefully patting the dog on the side of his head opposite the bandage. “Good boy, you look great!”

“They brought him home last night. Doc sent some antibiotics and a pain medication for him, but says he should be fine in a few days.”

Larabee continued to smile as he replied, “Thank God. I don’t know that there’s another dog out there that would take my moods as well as he does.”

Buck laughed aloud and, under a leveled hazel glare, admitted to saying nearly the same thing just a few days ago.

Chris just shook his head and muttered, “You know me too well. Might just have to shoot you.”

Wilmington laughed even louder, slapped the blond on the arm, and continued pushing his friend through the house. Going into the bedroom, he helped Larabee into bed. Just as he pulled the comforter up over the lean body, his cell began playing “Yellow Rose of Texas”, alerting him that the call was from Vin Tanner.

“Hey, Junior, what’s up?”

Chris frowned as he saw the shocked expression that crossed the other man’s face. “Buck?”

Wilmington held up his hand, indicating that he would tell Larabee what was going on in a minute. With a “Thanks,” he disconnected the call.

“Buck? What is it?”

Heaving a sigh, the bigger man said, “That was Vin… they just got a call. Peter Kowolski hung himself in his cell last night.”

Larabee groaned, scrubbing a hand over his still pale face. “Damn it,” he murmured softly.

Shaking his head, the mustached man said, “Chris, don’t let it get you down. He was an adult and he made his own choices.”

“Maybe,” Larabee muttered. “But I can’t help thinking…”

“What?” Buck prompted when the other man didn’t finish his thought.

“If I had known… if I had been able to keep him from seeing what happened… “

“He wouldn’t have seen you take down his old man. That’s all. The poison that filled that boy’s heart was delivered by one snake… his father. Don’t go thinking this is your fault, stud, ‘cause it ain’t. Hear me?”

After a moment’s hesitation, the blond said, “Yeah… yeah, I hear you.”

Wilmington watched the emotions that chased over the other man’s face. He knew that, although he heard the words, Chris didn’t really believe them. He saw the guilt take hold, despite the reality of the situation. Larabee would hold onto that guilt now, making it a part of himself… part of his soul. “Chris, don’t do this to yourself,” He thought. He would say nothing to the other man, though. Not now. It wouldn’t do any good.

Kowalski had gotten his revenge after all.

The End