Nathan Jackson was worried. Here it was 9:30 am and Josiah Sanchez wasn't at the office yet. The man in question was usually the first one into the ATF office every morning and if he was going to be late he always called. Nathan had tried Josiah's home phone and his cell phone but he had gotten no answer from either one. The boss stepped out of his office just then and looked over to Josiah's desk. Chris Larabee was surprised to see that the archeologist hadn't made it into work yet. Of all his agents Sanchez was the only one who was never late unless he told Chris beforehand he wouldn't be in on time.
"Nathan, call Josiah's see what's up?" Chris asked the team medic.
"Already did Chris, got no answer from his home or cell phone," Jackson told his boss . "Maybe you and Ez should head on over to his place and see where he's at," Chris informed his two agents.
"Hell Chris, maybe old Josiah got lucky over the weekend and is just too plumb worn out to make it into work today," Buck Wilmington said with a laugh. This earned him a glare from Larabee and a slap across the back from Vin Tanner.
"I'm sure Mr. Sanchez is fine, perhaps he just slept in today," Ezra Standish offered.
"Josiah ain't like you Ez, he wouldn't sleep in on a work day," Vin answered.
"You don't suppose he's sick do ya Chris?" young JD Dunne asked his boss.
"Can't say JD, we'll know more once Nathan and Ezra get to Josiah's place," Chris replied.
"Sides kid, Josiah would have to be awful sick to not pick up the phone to call in and let us know he won't be here today," Buck said.
"Well, until we hear something from Nathan and Ez I think the rest of us should get back to work, I know you all have paper work to finish from last week's bust." Larabee spoke in his I'm the boss tone.
Chris went back into his office, while Nathan and Ezra headed for the elevator and the garage in order to go to Josiah's place. Wilmington, Dunne and Tanner all sat down at their desks to get busy.
Josiah Sanchez lived only a few miles away from the office and it didn't take Nathan and Ezra long to get there. When they pulled in they saw Josiah's SUV sitting where he always parked it. They took the stairs up to Josiah's apartment and knocked on the door. When they received no answer they were both a little puzzled. If Josiah was home why wasn't he answering the phone or the door. Nathan took out the key he had to Josiah's apartment and used it to unlock the door.
"Good lord! I never realized Mr. Sanchez was so untidy!" Ezra exclaimed as he and Nathan took in the sight that greeted them once the door was open. The place was totally trashed, furniture overturned, stuffing hanging out of cushions and broken pictures all over the floor.
"Let's see if we can find Josiah somewhere in this mess, but don't move anything or touch anything. Just look for Josiah while I call Chris," Nathan told Ezra.
"Mr. Jackson, I'm aware that this may very well be a crime scene, I don't need you to tell me not to move or touch anything," Ezra snapped at the black man beside him.
"Sorry Ez, didn't mean it the way it sounded, just worried about Josiah is all," Nathan admitted to the man beside him.
"I too Mr. Jackson, I too," Ezra replied then headed into the bedroom half of Josiah's home.
The phone rang in the office of ATF leader Chris Larabee's office.
"Chris, you and the boys better get over here, looks like Josiah's place has been broken into and so far no sign of Josiah," Nathan informed his boss.
"Be right there Nathan," Chris replied.
"Let's go boys, looks like trouble at Josiah's," Larabee told the three agents still at the office with him.
Soon six ATF agents had gathered at Sanchez's apartment. They had searched the place but had not found Josiah Sanchez anywhere.
Vin Tanner was the one to spot the blood in the living room, and again out in the hall.
Larabee had no choice but to call in the FBI since this looked like a kidnapping. But first he'd call Judge Orin Travis and find out how he wanted Larabee and his team to handle it.
Travis told Chris to lock up the apartment and he'd meet the team in their office within half an hour.
"Could this be revenge against Sanchez from one of the busts you fellas did?" was the first question Travis asked when they were all gathered in the ATF conference room.
"Josiah hasn't really been in the forefront on most of our busts. He worked behind the scenes most of the time, only going under cover three times, but we could check to see if any of those men have gotten out of prison yet," Chris answered.
"Do any of you know if Josiah has any enemies other then those guys the ATF busted? Anyone who'd have a reason to kidnap him or go after him for some reason?" the Judge asked the team.
"Judge, this here is Josiah we're talking about! Hell sure the man has a temper but most of the time he's as gentle as a lamb and he's the first one to offer a helping hand to anyone who needs it. Can't see why anyone would want to do him harm," Buck spoke up and said.
"I'm sure Mr. Sanchez has annoyed a few people, but not to the point where they'd kidnap him," Ezra replied.
"I can't think of any reason for someone to go after Josiah, sure he can sometimes be a little harsh with folks when he's riled but not so much so that someone would want to hurt him for it! It has to be one of our past cases," Nathan told his team mates.
"Well, I'll get the lab over to Josiah's, see what they find . In the mean time you six check out your old cases, see if anyone's been released from prison that might be after Sanchez or one of you," Travis ordered.
Once The Judge was gone, Larabee give his own orders. "Buck, you JD ,Vin and Ezra hit the streets see if you can get anything from your informants. Me and Nathan will check the files and the prison release sheets."
The day passed swiftly and soon the men were all back at the office. Nathan and Chris hadn't found anything in the files and the prison sheets showed no one released that the Magnificent Seven had busted.
"I got nothing Chris, none of my contacts know anything," Vin told his boss.
"Shit, Chris ain't no one JD and I deal with that know a thing about a kidnapping of an ATF agent," Buck said disgustedly.
"I'm sorry to say I was unsuccessful as well, " Ezra added.
"Has the lab turned anything up yet?" JD asked.
"Not yet," Nathan replied.
"So what do we do now Chris?" Buck wanted to know.
"Travis says he'll give us until tomorrow evening before he calls in the FBI. So we hit the streets again and we go over out last few cases to see if maybe someone slipped through the last bust," Chris told his men.
"Mr. Larabee, might I suggest a couple of us go to the missions and shelters where Josiah does so much of his volunteer work, perhaps one of the people there would know something or have heard something," Ezra suggested.
"Good idea Ez, Josiah was suppose to help at the shelter on fourth street yesterday," Vin replied.
"Ezra, you take Nathan and head over there. Buck, JD, you check the other four places Josiah volunteers at. Vin and I will go over the past few cases and double check on people who were involved," Chris stated.
Ezra and Nathan entered the Good Hope Mission and Shelter to find the whole place in an uproar. Father Michaels, who runs the place was trying his best to calm everyone down. Sister Marie and Sister Rosa were trying to keep everyone from running away.
When he saw Nathan Jackson, Father Michaels hurried over to him. "Nathan I'm so glad to see you, I have been trying all day to reach Josiah but you'll do just as well."
"What is it Father, what's going on here?" Nathan asked.
"Do you remember that vet Josiah sent to us a few months back, Manny Dozer?"
"Yes, we found him wondering the streets and since we both remembered him from the gulf we felt we had to help him."
"Well he came in here late last night is such a state, raving about seeing the devil and how evil always finds him. At first I thought he might have been drinking again or maybe even drugs, But the doctor I called said Manny hadn't been doing either. Dr. Harrison gave Manny a shot to settle him down but when he woke a while ago he started raving all over again, then he begged me to get Josiah," Father Michael explained.
"I'm afraid Mr. Sanchez is unavailable right now," Ezra stated.
"Was Josiah here yesterday Father?" Nathan asked.
"Yes he was. He spent the day helping us do some work on the walls and then he helped served dinner to the few regulars we have come in here. he left about 8 p.m. for home," Father Michaels told Nathan and Ezra.
"Father, Josiah is missing, his place is torn up and we found blood in a couple of spots. We were hoping maybe you or some of the folks here had heard something about what might have happened to him," Nathan explained
"Oh heavens! I haven't heard a thing and most of the folks here have been busy today trying to keep Manny calmed down," Michaels replied.
Just then from the doorway leading into the room where the cots were kept a man in his late 20's came toward Nathan.
"CORPORAL JACKSON, SIR!! YOU GOT TO HELP ME!! THE DEVIL'S HERE AND HE'S AFTER ME!!!" the man screamed.
"Manny, it's all right, calm down now. What devil are ya talking about?" Nathan tried to soothe the man.
"NO CORPORAL, HE'LL GET YOU TOO, REMEMBER HE SAID HE'D KILL ALL THREE OF US WHEN HE GOT OUT AND TRACKED US DOWN!" Manny yelled as he grabbed Jackson by the arm and tried to pull him into the other room.
"Calm down Manny, I don't understand what you're talking about. Who said he'd kill us?" Nathan asked.
"THE DEVIL DAMN IT !!! YOU REMEMBER ME ,YOU AND CAP ,WE CAUGHT THE DEVIL AND TURNED HIM IN, HE SWORE HE'D GET EVEN! YOU REMEMBER DON'T YOU CORPORAL.?" Manny pleaded with Nathan to remember.
Nathan still seemed confused and Manny seemed to be getting even more upset. Ezra decided to see if he could help.
"Mr. Manny, tell us the name of the devil. Perhaps we can stop him," Ezra spoke in a soft southern drawl.
"DEVIL ZOOK!! YOU REMEMBER CORPORAL..... ZOOK!" Manny yelled.
Nathan stood speechless and stared at Manny like he'd lost his mind.
"Mr. Jackson, Nathan, are you all right? Ezra asked as he grabbed the now swaying Jackson by the arm.
"No Manny, you couldn't have seen Zook, he's dead, remember? He escaped before the military could ship him home for trial. His body was found three days later in the desert. Manny, you couldn't have seen Zook, he'd dead," Jackson kept saying.
"Corporal, I know what I saw and I tell ya it was Zook! He was having dinner at one of them fancy places on Elwood Drive! Soon as I saw him I took off running and didn't stop till I got here! But we got to tell Cap, so's he can come hide here with us. Maybe Zook won't look for us here!" Manny replied.
"Who the hell is Cap and who's this Zook guy? Come on Nathan let me in on what this man is talking about," Ezra finally broke into Nathan ramblings.
"Cap is Josiah. The boys in desert storm called him Cap because he always said his chopper was his ship. It started as a joke but then everyone took to calling him that. And Zook was a major in the army we all served under. He was rotten to the core, drugs, guns, anything illegal Zook had his hands in. We need to get to Chris and the others. If Zook is still alive then Josiah just might be dead already," Nathan explained.
After making sure Father Michaels would see that Manny stayed at the mission until he got word from Nathan again, the two Atf agents headed to the office.
Ezra drove back to the office but kept an eye on Nathan, he looked shocked and for the first time since Ezra had met him, he looked scared.
9 p.m. Monday
ATF Team 7 Office
Six members of team seven were sitting in the conference room awaiting the arrival of the Judge. Chris had decided to include the Judge when he saw how upset and worried Nathan Jackson was. Ezra had guided Nathan into the office an hour ago. All of them were aware that it took a lot to shake up the ex-medic, but they could tell right off that Jackson was shaken. Ezra told them what he knew and it was then that Chris had decided to add Travis to any discussion the team would be having. He told Nathan to wait and so he could tell them all at the same time everything he knew about this Zook character.
JD had gotten Nathan a hot, sweet cup of tea while Vin and Ezra lead the ex-medic into the conference room to sit down and calm down. Chris could tell that Jackson was finally pulling himself together and seemed to have his emotions under better control.
Ezra had made coffee and brought the pot into the room with six cups, while JD continually made tea for Nathan..
Judge Travis entered to find six of his finest ATF officers sitting around wearing looks of worry. "Chris, what have you found out that you had to call me back to the office to the office I only left a few hours ago?"
"Nathan thinks he might know who grabbed Josiah. I'll let him explain since I don't know any more then that," Chris said.
Travis watched as Nathan straightened in his chair and look around the room. "How much do any of you know about Josiah's past?" he asked.
"Not a lot, just what I needed to know to get him on the team," Chris answered.
Buck, JD, Vin and Ezra all just shook their heads as if to say :not much.
The Judge looked at Nathan for a few minutes then said, "I know enough to know Josiah isn't just some ex-anthropologist, he's worked for the government before now but when I ran a check all I got back was that his files were sealed. I was assured he was legal and would make a very good ATF agent."
"And you didn't share this information with me?" Chris growled. Didn't you think sealed files might be a good reason to investigate this person who my team and I were going to trust with our lives?"
"Chris all your team except JD have some sort of sealed file on them," Travis informed him.
"He's right Chris," Tanner told his boss . "And may I point out this is not helping us to find out who this Mr. Zook is or what he might have to do with Mr. Sanchez," Ezra added.
"Ezra 's right, we need to let Nathan tell us what he knows," Buck said.
"Go on Nathan," Travis encouraged the ex-medic.
"I met Josiah Sanchez in the Gulf back in '91. My company was sent out from Fort Bragg to join the other troops in Desert Storm. I was in the medical unit and Manny Dozer was in artillery but had managed to shoot himself in the foot his first week there. He was assigned to my medical unit to help us out. He and I seemed to spend a lot of time together, then one day this big bull of a fella comes into the medical tent and it's easy to see everyone else there knew him. He carried in this little girl and behind him was maybe five more little kids and a priest," Nathan started the story.
"And that big bull was Josiah?" Tanner asked.
"It sure was," Nathan stated and then continued on. "The doctor told us that Josiah and the priest came in about once a month with someone needing medical care. Sanchez was a medical chopper pilot and everyone liked the guy. The brass had told the doctors that what ever Sanchez wanted they were to see he got it."
"Wasn't til later I found out Josiah worked for the UN and that our government had him working for them too. The man was amazing, he could get into and out of places where most men couldn't. Hell he even managed to slip into Hussien's headquarters one time to get out some folks Hussien was holding captive. He was a big hit with all the men, officers and non-coms alike." Nathan smiled at the memory of his friend.
"He and I became friends, and about a month after we met Josiah got assigned to look into a rumor that a Major was involved in several shady deals. It didn't take Josiah long to find out that Major William Zook was not only involved but in charge of many illegal deals. He was selling drugs to the men, selling military movements to the enemy and he also was having illegal fights between the men. Those fights were to the death and Josiah found out that Zook had covered up the deaths by having the men declared MIA or AWOL."
"Sounds like a real first class guy, don't he boys?" Buck asked sarcastically.
Chris just nodded at Nathan to go on.
"Well Zook must have found out Josiah was on to him because he grabbed Manny. By the time we found Manny he was so hooked on drugs and had been beaten so bad that his mind wasn't right. We got him out and Josiah went to the brass and turned in his report. When the MP's picked Zook up he saw Manny, Josiah and I standing there and he swore he'd kill us when he got out."
"Did he ever get out?" JD asked in awe of the story.
"I'm gettin' there, JD," Nathan told him and then went on. "Three days later Zook had escaped and was out in the desert somewhere. After a couple days of searching we found his body near the enemy lines. He must have stumbled upon a buried land mine but it was hard to tell. The remains were wearing Zook's dog tags and the body fit his description, so the government considered him dead."
"No positive ID though?" Chris asked.
"To them, the dog tags were the positive ID," Nathan informed him.
"Dog tags can be switched," Tanner reminded him.
"I'm beginning to see that now," Nathan answered and then finished the story. "When our troops pulled out of Kuwait, Josiah stayed behind saying his work wasn't done there yet. I didn't see him again until that seminar here in Denver six years ago."
Nathan closed his eyes for a brief minute and then looked at everyone and stated, "if Zook is alive and he found Josiah then I know he'll kill him and maybe even me and Manny if he knows we're here in Denver too."
The room was silent after Nathan finished speaking. The men of team seven weren't really surprised to hear Josiah had been involved with the Gulf War or that he would go after someone who caused harm to innocent people. Even learning Josiah was involved with the UN wasn't that big of a shock. The news that he was working with the US government under cover wasn't all that surprising either. All the men knew Josiah Sanchez had done and seen a lot of things he never told them about. But as Josiah himself would say, they all had their demons to deal with. But he must have been in deep if he stayed behind when all the other troops pulled out.
"Nathan, thank you for telling us all of that. There must be some way for us to find out for sure that the man this Manny person saw was really Zook. As you said, Manny isn't in his right mind and he may have made a mistake," Travis said, trying to be optimistic.
"Judge, I hate to say this, but since I've worked around the FBI and the CIA I know that sometimes they cover up things. Maybe this Zook guy was working for the CIA and they helped him escape and planted a body with his tags just so the army would think he was dead. It wouldn't be the first time they they've pulled that sort of thing," Ezra reasoned.
"Ez is right, we can't know for sure our own government isn't involved in this all somehow," Vin agreed.
"But how do we go about finding out if this major Zook is alive and still in business?" the Judge asked.
"Chris, let me do some snooping with the computer, maybe I can find something somewhere," JD Dunne asked his boss.
"Kid's right Chris, he's real good at that computer and usually can find something that helps us on a case." Buck backed up his teammate.
Chris knew without being told exactly what JD was really planning to do. He was going to hack into some federal files and likely get his ass busted, but what other choice did they have of finding out anything?
"First off, we take Nathan out to the ranch, that way if it is Zook and he wants Nathan he has to come to us to get him. Judge you think you can find someplace safe to hide Manny?" Chris questioned.
"Yes, I'll deal with this Manny person while you boys do what you have to to find Sanchez," Orin replied.
Once the Orin Travis had left the room the six agents finally opened up.
"Mr. Larabee, I'll contact some people I know with the FBI and the CIA. Perhaps one of them might be able to give me some information," Ezra Standish informed the team leader.
"Do it Ezra. Buck I want you and JD to head to the ranch with Nathan. Any digging JD does I want it done on my computer at home. I got a few people I can check with myself," Chris told his men.
"Cowboy, I got some folks who just might be able to help too, but I'll need to go talk to them alone to find out anything. What say I meet you back here in a couple hours and we head to the ranch together?" Vin added in.
"All right, everyone knows what to do. Ezra once you've made your contacts I want you to get to the ranch. If this Zook guy knows Josiah works with us then all of us could be in danger." And with that statement Chris Larabee headed to his office to make some phone calls.
As each member of the team left they touched Nathan Jackson to add their strength to his. They knew he was worried about his friend and so were they.
3 hours later
"Buck, has everything been quiet here?"
"Yeah Chris, haven't heard or seen a thing."
"Where's Mr Jackson?" Ezra inquired.
"I made him go lay down for awhile; he was pretty shaken up and I thought some rest would be good for him," Buck replied.
"Ok boys lets see what each of us have come up with," Chris said.
"Let me get the kid, he's still on the computer," Buck answered.
"Boys, I don't want the kid or Nathan left alone for a second! One of us stays with them at all times," Chris warned his men.
They all agreed and Buck went to get the kid while Chris went to get Nathan.
"Vin, did you find anything out.?" Chris asked once they were all together.
"None of my people have heard of this Zook character but they are going to do some asking and get back to me if they hear anything," Vin replied.
"All of my contacts, Mr. Larabee, treated me like I had the plague once I mentioned the name Zook. I finally persuaded one gentleman to inform me that Zook was bad news and if I had any sense I'd back off and make no more inquiries about this man or his dealings," Ezra stated.
"So far I got nothing, but I'm working on something now and I should know more within the next 2 hours. And Chris, don't ask me where I'm looking for the information at. I don't think you'd be too happy with my answer," JD warned.
"Buck?" Chris chose to ignore JD's last comment.
"I made some calls, put out some feelers but so far I haven't heard a thing back," Buck responded.
"And you, Mr. Larabee? Was your luck any better then ours?" Ezra asked the leader.
"First of all, I want to tell Nathan that Manny is safe; the Judge has him hidden with a couple people he trusts in a safe house. And like Ezra, my contacts acted like I had the plague when I started asking about Zook. Finally got a hold of an old buddy who was in Desert Storm and he remembers Zook. Said the guy was a real slime ball, that some of the things he'd heard about Zook made him sick to his stomach," Chris related.
"By the way Nathan, he rememberers Josiah too, said he met him a few times over there and wasn't too surprised to hear Josiah stayed behind when the military left. He heard Josiah had been in the country for a couple years before Desert Storm even started.. Anyway, I asked him if he'd heard any rumors about Zook being alive and he told me he'd check around and call me back. He called me just before Vin got back." Chris paused for a moment to gather his thoughts.
Then he looked directly at the healer. "Nathan, I'm sorry but Zook is alive. And he is here in the US but my buddy didn't know where," Chris told them the bad news.
"So maybe Manny did see him last night," Nathan murmurer.
"Could be," Vin agreed.
Then Chris continued, "my buddy did say that if I was looking for Zook he hoped Zook never found out. Said the guys he talked to said Zook would find my weakest link and use it against me." The leader looked at each of his team while they assimilated this information.
"Nathan, we'll find him and if he has Josiah we'll get him back and make Zook pay for any harm he'd done Josiah. On that you have my promise," Chris said as he squeezed Nathan's shoulder.
"Chris, I know you mean that but if Zook has Josiah and has had him since Sunday night it's likely Josiah is already dead. I know how Zook works; he wouldn't let Josiah live very long once he got his hands on him," Nathan sadly told his boss.
"Nathan, come on now, you know Josiah! He's tough and he's been through lots of really nasty stuff; if there's anyway he'll survive and he'll know we'll find him and he'll know we'll deal with Zook the way he deserves," JD spoke up and told his friend.
"DAMN IT JD! I KNOW ZOOK! AND WE ALL SEEM TO FORGET JOSIAH AIN'T A YOUNG MAN ANYMORE. HE'S 50 NOW AND HE'S NO MATCH FOR THE GOONS ZOOK WILL HAVE WORKING FOR HIM.BY NOW ZOOKS MEN HAVE BEATEN JOSIAH TO DEATH AND IF WE AREN'T CAREFUL ONE OF US WILL BE TAKEN NEXT. I THINK IT WOULD BE BEST IF BUCK TAKES JD OUT OF THE STATE UNTIL ZOOKS LEAVES DENVER. AND THE REST OF US SHOULD LAY LOW UNTIL THEN TOO," Nathan shouted.
"Nathan! you don't know Josiah"s dead for sure." Vin said as he grabbed the man and shook him.
"Vin, you don't know what Zook is like. He's evil to the core. If he knows about JD then he'll try and hurt him just because Josiah is fond of the boy. Even if Josiah's dead Zook would still hurt the kid. Zooks crazy it wouldn't matter to him that Josiah wasn't around to witness him hurting JD. He's sick and nothing the army tried ever stopped him from playing his sick games. If Josiah hadn't finally reported him to the officials at the UN, Zook would have never been stopped in Kuwait. And now it looks like someone in my own government helped that slime get away and live. We won't get any help from the government if we take on Zook. All we'll get is dead." Nathan explained.
"Nathan! Zook won't go after JD. If he wants to truly hurt Josiah then he'll go after Ezra." Vin said with a look toward the southerner.
"Me! Mr Tanner I believe you are mistaken. Josiah and I aren't as friendly as you must think." Ezra laughed.
"Ez, maybe you're to blind to see it and maybe Nathan is to stubborn to admit it but it's you Josiah cares about the most. Sure he cares about all of us but you , for some damn reason that man cares about you like he would his own son. And if Zook is half as smart as Nathan believes he is then he already knows that." Vin told his stunned friend.
Ezra had hoped he would never have to admit he knew about Josiah's feelings toward him and Nathan too had refused to admit how Josiah felt about Ezra. JD and Chris just looked at Ezra. JD, Buck and Vin had always knowen how Josiah felt about the southern undercover agent right after he'd join the team. Chris knew because of the one time after Ezra had been shot and him and Josiah were sitting with Ezra in his hospital room Josiah had told Chris about his feelings for the southerner
"If you knew this Mr Tanner why did you never say anything to me?" Ezra asked.
"Wasn't my place.I figured sooner or later you'd figure it out yourself but it's been 4 years and you still don't have a clue." Tanner admitted.
"Or so you think Mr Tanner". Ezra whispered softly.
"This makes me believe Zook will keep Josiah alive until he can grab Ezra. If the man is as crazy as Nathan says then he needs something to use against Josiah and my bet would be he'll try and grab Ezra as soon as he can." Vin told his team mates.
"Damn Vin, you could be right. and here we all thought it'd be the kid Zook would go after." Buck said.
"Then we best all stay close to Ezra. make sure Zook can't get to him." Chris spoke up finally.
"But that still don't help us as to how to find Zook and Josiah." Nathan said.
"We're all tired and we've been through a lot. Let's just try to get some sleep . I'll take first watch, the rest of you head for bed. I'll wake someone in 2 hours to replace me." Chris informed his men..