Disclaimer: This story is the product of different minds coming together to have some fun. We have ownership over any new characters but the rest belongs to others (such a shame!).
Authors' Note: I had a spare three hours so my muse pulled the whip out and made me spend some more time with Vin and the guys.
Vin was leaning against the wall in the alley, checking his watch every so often. "Mr Tobin?"
Vin turned his head slightly and saw two guys who looked around JD's age, hell maybe even younger. "Who's askin'?"
"Mr Poteri asked us to pick you up. There's been a change of plans." When they noticed that Vin wasn't making any move towards them, they continued, "Um, our car's just over there." One of them pointed towards the end of the alley.
Vin just shook his head, "I don't think so, Mr Poteri is supposed to show up himself." Vin didn't have a good feeling about this, surely Ezra would have had plenty of time to warn them if the meeting wasn't going down as planned. Vin was supposed to wait in the alley for Ezra and Theo Poteri, they were to organise the time and place for the sale of the firearms later that day. Then Vin was to contact Chris with the information. While Team 7 was setting up, Vin was to go back to his apartment and get wired. "I ain't goin' nowhere with a couple of lackeys."
The kid directly in front of Vin moved his hand towards his jacket, Vin tried to reach for his own gun when the second guy hit him in the head with a pipe. Vin crumpled to the ground dropping his weapon. The two guys dragged Vin to their vehicle, placed him in the backseat and handcuffed him to the door.
* * * * * * *
"Mr Poteri, we are already late. My buyer does not like to be kept waiting."
"There's been a change in plans."
"Excuse me? Why was I not informed earlier?"
"One of my men recognised your buyer, he was a bounty hunter and according to my sources he's now a fed." When Poteri saw the surprised look on Ezra's face he chuckled, "Don't worry we've taken care of it."
"No! I mean... What do you mean?" Ezra felt as though he'd been kicked in the stomach. He couldn't believe what he was hearing, and looked around for a way to escape if need be.
"Hey, it's okay Ezra. I know how it feels when your betrayed by someone, especially in business. My guys will just rough him up a little. We'll let you take care of him personally."
Okay, so my cover's still intact. Vin's still alive. I just need to find out where he is, maybe he got away and all this panicking is for nothing. Ezra smiled slightly, "I appreciate that and also apologise for this inconvience. I sincerely hope this doesn't affect our relationship."
Poteri smiled back, he liked Ezra. The man had a sense of style and conducted business on the same level as Poteri although he was more of a control freak than Poteri was. "Of course not, just glad to be of service."
"Well, if you just tell me where your men have taken Mr Tobin, I'll be on my way."
"His name's Tanner, and what's your hurry? We can discuss finding another buyer over a drink, let my boys have a little fun."
"Actually, I would prefer to take care of this little problem as soon as possible."
Poteri laughed, "You remind me of me, except for one thing. You definitely need to learn to relax. Besides I don't know where they're taking him. I think it's some kind of shack in the mountains. They'll call me sometime tomorrow with the exact location."
Ezra sighed in exasperation, "Do you always let your hired help do as they please?"
"In some matters. When it comes to feds, I honestly don't care what they do to him or where they take him."
"And what if they decide to take matters into their own hands? I thought you liked to take care of business yourself?"
"I only take care of business myself when it involves money, the rest is what I hire other people to do. You're the one that always wants to do everything himself, so out of courtesy I've asked the guys to keep Tanner alive until we can get there."
Ezra knew he couldn't push Poteri any further and nodded. Poteri put an arm around Ezra's shoulders and led him towards his den,. "If my men get a little carried away, so what?"
* * * * * * *
"This is just great. Those two are trying to take care of it themselves."
Chris shook his head, "I don't think so Buck. We've been working on this bust for two months now. Neither one of them would do anything to blow it now."
"Then why hasn't Vin called?" Buck threw up his hands.
"He's not home either, his phone keeps ringing out," JD stated as he walked back into the conference room.
"Maybe there was a change in plans," Nathan offered, he could feel the tension in the room.
"Nathan's right, perhaps Vin and Ezra weren't able to contact us yet. I'm sure we'll here from them soon."
In answer to Josiah's premonition, Ezra rushed through the conference room doors, "Is Vin here?"
JD looked up at Ezra with a confused expression on his face, "No, he should be with you."
"Dammit," Ezra swore as he slumped down into an exmpty seat.
"What's happened?" Chris asked.
"One of Poteri's men recognised Vin. He had a couple of guys pick him up in the alley."
"And you're only telling us this now?" Buck wanted to know.
"Mr Wilmington, I wasn't able to extricate myself from Theo Poteri's side until now."
"You're cover's still intact then," Nathan asked although it came out as more of a statement.
"Yes," Ezra turned towards Chris. "Don't look so worried, Mr Poteri told me I could take care of it myself. He's taking me to where Vin is tomorrow."
Chris looked around the room wearily, "I shouldn't have let Vin go alone. One of us should have followed him."
"Chris, it was just a preliminary meeting. We didn't want to spook Theo after all our work. Besides we couldn't have foreseen someone recognising Vin." Josiah knew that Chris would go through everything that could have been done differently, but right now they needed him to be their leader.
Chris just nodded.
"Mr Larabee? Mr Poteri has already lined up a buyer of his own, a Hugh Wellesly. Money is expected to change hands in two days. If I rescue Vin tomorrow instead of killing him, this whole operation will be blown."
"That doesn't matter, Vin could be hurt," JD was staring wide eyed at Ezra.
"Ezra's right," Chris said. "I want you to wear a wire from now on. JD you're on surveillance, if Poteri tells you the location JD can relay it to us and we'll go get him before you guys get there. Buck, you and Nathan wait outside Poteri's house, if he decides to take Ezra there without giving him the location you guys follow him and get Vin, without involving Ezra if possible. Josiah, I need you to find anything you can on this Wellesly guy. It looks like we might be able to catch two birds with one stone."
* * * * * * *
"Anything yet JD?" Chris asked as he entered the van.
"No, Poteri's just been talkin' about the negotiations. The phone hasn't even rung and it's six already."
"Let me listen," Chris put on the headphones JD handed him.
"How many times do I have to tell you, call me Theo."
"Theo, I thought I was going to be exacting some revenge today?"
"My men haven't called yet."
"I understand this, aren't you worried?"
"Ezra, they're just street punks. Probably went a little far and are too scared to come back. I've already paid them, and it wasn't like I was planning on giving them permanent employment anyway."
"They could have taken the money and not done anything about this Tanner fellow."
"You saw them take him right?"
"Yeah, boss. They also know what would happen to them if that cop ever showed up again."
"There you go. Now I'm hungry, how about dinner?"
"Shit," Chris threw the headphones down.
"What do we do now?" JD asked, his voice shaking slightly.
"Call Buck and Nathan in, there's no point them sitting out there all night." Chris placed a hand on the kid's shoulder, "Don't worry, we'll find him," he said with a little more conviction than he felt.
JD stayed in the van and watched as the older agent walked dejectedly towards the federal building.
* * * * * * *
Ezra stepped off the elevator, shoulders slumped and head bowed not wanting to look anyone in the eye. Josiah came up to him and placed a comforting arm around his shoulder, "You did good Ezra. None of this is your fault."
Chris came out of his office and everyone stopped what they were doing to listen. Chris looked at the expectant expressions on his friends' faces and wished he could oblige them. Unfortunately, they still had a job to do and Vin had to be pushed to the back of his mind.
"The bust is going down tomorrow. From what Josiah found out Hugh Wellesly is going to bring in an army of his own and with Poteri's men there'll be too many for just us to handle. I've already lined up agents from other teams as backup. Ezra see if you can sweet talk Poteri into telling you where the deal is going down before it happens. I know he doesn't like giving information away until the last minute, so we'll use the same setup as we did today. JD's on surveillance and Buck and Nathan will be ready to follow. Nathan will contact us once you've stopped moving. We should be able to sweep in as the deal is going down. I don't want anyone to make a move until backup has arrived." Chris looked over to Ezra and noticed his posture which hadn't changed since he walked in. "Do you think you can still handle this?" he asked.
Ezra knew what Chris was asking. It had been difficult not to let his facade slip when he first heard that they knew about Vin. Today it had been practically impossible to act nonchalant and keep up the small talk, all the while thinking that Vin was either hurt or lying dead somewhere. Ezra realised that everyone in the room was contemplating the same thing and that all they wanted to do was find Vin. But they all had a different task assigned to them, so he nodded almost imperceptibly, "I think I can cope."
* * * * * * *
Vin woke up to a terrible headache, what the hell happened? He moved his head slightly, wincing at the pain. He noticed the blood on the window of the car, that's right I was jumped in the alley. Doesn't explain the car though. Or my arm, shit it feels like it's broken. Vin could hear someone crying, "Who's there?" he asked in almost a whisper.
"He's dead, I don't know what to do."
Vin tried to manoeuvre his way towards the voice, but was hindered by his arm. He kept his arm as still as possible and moved his body so that he could see into the front of the car. There was so much blood covering the driver that he couldn't tell where the wounds were, he turned towards the figure who was trying to keep his weeping under control. "I'm handcuffed. You need to undo these."
"I can't, I'm pinned."
"Damn, well then toss me the keys."
The kid glanced over to the dead body, "He has the key. He's dead, oh God."
Vin's head and arm were throbbing, but this kid was hysterical. Hopefully once Vin had freed him then the kid might take over the thinking and Vin could just go back to sleep. "What's your name kid?"
"Ah what? Oh, James."
"Okay James. Just reach over and take the keys. I can't help you like this."
With a shaking hand James retrieved the keys and threw them in Vin's direction. Vin fumbled with them and then finally managed to free himself of the handcuffs. He tried to crawl into the front of the car when his arm brushed against one of the seat. A wave of pain swept over Vin and he closed his eyes trying to ride it out.
* * * * * * *
"Wake up, you have to help me. Please, mister wake up."
As hard as he tried Vin couldn't block out the voice. He opened his eyes, "Chris?"
"James?" Vin tried to concentrate, when the aching in his body reasserted itself he remembered the accident.
Finally Vin managed to get into the front of the vehicle and kicked open the passenger door. Crawling over James, he stood up outside the car. He stopped, swaying slightly as he tried not to topple over. He lifted the dash that was pinning the young man, and using a branch he'd picked up as leverage helped James slide out from under the dash.
James sat beside the car gripping his leg. Vin checked him over the best he could, "I don't think it's broken."
James just grunted then looked over at Vin. "You're still bleeding."
"Yeah well, we need help. Is there a house or phone around here somewhere?" Vin knew the Denver area well, but for the life of him couldn't figure out where they were.
"There's a shack, where we were taking you. It's hidden off the road, just a little further up. We can call for help there."
Vin watched as James stood up and started limping along the road. He stopped and turned towards Vin, "Are you coming? I'm not goin' anywhere alone."
Vin tried to grin and struggled to get to his feet. He took a few steps when he was overcome by dizziness, "Oh, just let me sit for a minute. Then I'll be right with you."
* * * * * * *
Team 7 were all still at the office. Everything had been prepared for the next day, however no-one particularly wanted to go home yet. JD had gone back to check on the surveillance van and make sure the equipment was ready and working. The other agents were just milling around, occasionally cleaning their weapons or flicking through their files.
Suddenly, JD rushed into the office, crashing into Buck. "Whoa there, where's the fire kid?" Buck noticed the anxious expression on JD's face, "What's wrong?"
"An accident on Gibson Road was called into the police station. The scanner in the van picked it up."
"So?" Buck shrugged.
"I ran the plate. It's registered to one of Poteri's companies."
"What?" Chris whirled around, staring intently at JD.
"Only one body was found." Seeing the expression on Chris' face JD added, "It's not Vin, he doesn't match the description."
Chris let out the breath he'd been holding as JD continued. "They didn't say anything about anyone else being there."
Before Chris could give orders his team jumped into action. "I'll call the police station and get more information," Josiah said as he headed for a phone.
Nathan was already dialling, "I'll contact the hospital, if Vin was injured maybe he found his own way there."
Buck grabbed Chris by the arm, "Come on pard. I'll drive us out to Gibson Road."
* * * * * * *
Buck circled the vehicle to stand beside Chris. "There's blood here in the back seat as well," Chris said as he pointed to the window.
"Handcuffs lying there too," Buck added.
Chris nodded, "It looks like they got out through the front door."
"Vin can't have been too hurt. He was at least able to walk." Buck grinned trying to lighten the mood, but sobered at Chris' next comment.
"I'm not sure, there's too much blood." Chris had started moving away from the car, "Hey Buck, there's some tracks over here. I think they went this way."
"Right behind you Chris."
* * * * * * *
"I told you it wasn't far," James pointed to the building almost hidden behind some trees.
"Not far my ass," Vin mumbled but sped up a little. The sooner they reached the house, the sooner he could stop.
James limped through the door behind Vin and nudged the agent with his gun.
Vin groaned, "What are you doin?" He must have hit his head harder than he thought to have missed the fact that James still had a weapon on him. In fact, he hadn't even thought to check.
"Sorry, but the situationís changed. I canít risk Poteri finding out you got away, you have no idea what heíll do to me."
Vin was getting more and more confused, "Who the fuck is Poteri?"
"Geez, don't you remember?"
Vin tried to clear his head, "You guys jumped me in the alley. I was there..." James watched as Vin leaned against the pannelling, "The bust! Oh no, all that work for nothing."
"Well anyway, like I said, Poteri will kill me if you're still alive when help comes."
Vin shut his eyes and slid down the wall.
* * * * * * *
"ATF, FREEZE!" Chris and Buck shouted in unison.
James swung around, these two men looked more dangerous and deadly than Poteri ever did. He let his gun fall to the floor and held up his hands.
Buck walked over and handcuffed James, while Chris crouched down beside Vin and pulled out his cell phone to call an ambulance.
* * * * * * *
"You could have told us the signal would be you punching Poteri in the face," Buck grinned at Ezra.
"Well, the man had it coming," Ezra grinned back.
"Thank God, the bust went smoothly," Josiah stated. "Spending most of the night at the hospital didn't really do much for our altertness."
"Speaking of which, who's coming to visit Vin?" Chris asked and then laughed as his whole team stepped forward.
* * * * * * *
Chris stormed up to the desk in the waiting room, "Where the hell's Vin?"
Nathan stepped up, "Vin Tanner. We've just been to his room, but he's not there."
The flustered nurse checked the computer, "Mr Tanner regained consciousness, so we moved him to another floor."
* * * * * * *
"Hey there pard," Buck smiled at Vin.
"Hey guys," Vin tried to smile back, but when he moved his head he winced instead. "When can I get outta here?"
Chris rolled his eyes, "You're obviously still in pain, so I'm guessing not anytime soon."
"Don't get any smart ideas either," Nathan admonished. "You've had a fairly serious head injury. You'll need to be here for at least three weeks."
"No way, I ain't stayin' that long."
"Well, perhaps we can come to some arrangment with the doctor. He may agree to two weeks if you promise to not to disappear, and you stay with Mr Larabee at the ranch for another two weeks after your release." Ezra smiled at the others, the doctor had said Vin could leave after two weeks. They all knew Vin would try to sneak out earlier, and making him believe they'd negotiated with the doctor on his behalf seemed like the best way to make him behave.
Vin sighed in resignation, he knew when he was beat, "Fine, it's a deal."
* * * * * * *
Chris walked into Vin's room, ready to spring his best friend from the hospital. The bed was made and Vin's bag was packed and sitting on the chair, however there was no sign of Vin.
"Shit," Chris grabbed the bag and strode down the corrider towards the front desk. He almost ran into Vin who was coming towards him down an ajoining corrider, munching on a candy bar.
"Where the hell have you been?"
Vin held up the half eaten chocolate, "The vending machine."
Chris continued glaring at Vin, "You could have told someone, I was about to call out a search party."
Vin just grinned and pulled another candy bar from the sling around his arm, "I got you one too."
Chris gave up and grinned, "Thanks."
* * * * * * *
"Come in," Chris called when he heard the others knock on the door.
"Well, at least the ranch is still standing," Nathan smiled as he stepped into the kitchen where Chris was preparing their meal.
Chris smiled, "I haven't had any trouble. Vin's been great."
The others looked at him in surprise, they'd thought for sure after a week both men would have tried to kill each other. "No more disappearing acts?" Josiah asked.
"Well, only once. He'd gone into the den to watch TV and closed the door so he wouldn't disturb me. I had no idea and searched the whole house. When I got to the den, he'd already moved into the kitchen waiting for dinner," Chris admitted.
"Where's he now?" JD wanted to know.
"In his room," Chris answered.
JD bounded towards the room, returning a few seconds later, "He's not there."
"What! You better not be kidding around JD," Chris warned.
The search was on, starting in the den. They turned the whole house upside down. Just as they were about to look outside, Vin walked through the front door, "Hey guys."
"Mr Tanner, you're knack for vanishing at the most inappropriate moments is creating havoc within this assembly of comrades."
Vin just stared blankly at Ezra.
"What Ez is saying," Buck translated, "is where with hell have you been?"
"Oh, just stretching my legs."
"Well, anyway. Here," JD handed Vin a small package.
"What's this?" Vin asked as be pulled out what appeared to be some kind of collar.
"It's used when training the police dogs," Josiah said. "The agency was kind enough to lend it to us."
"Huh?" Vin was still confused.
"You see, Chris keeps this little transmitter on him," Nathan started.
"We place the collar around your neck," Ezra continued.
"Then, if you stray more than 500 metres from where Chris is, you get an electric shock." JD finished.
"Actually, the present is more Chris' than yours," Josiah winked at Chris.
"Do you want help putting it on?" Buck laughed and then ducked as the collar came flying towards his head.
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