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: This story came from a conversation about blackmail and just grew.
"I’m telling you, none of my team were involved," Chris was standing with both his fists clenched on the desk glaring at the man across from him.
Instead of backing down the man maintained a wall of solid stone. He had grown used to confrontations like this, it was all part of being an Internal Affairs Investigator. "Are you sure, has anyone mentioned anything about missing evidence?"
* * * * * * *
The rest of Team 7 had gathered just outside Chris' door. No-one had said a word since Agent Fitzpatrick had stepped off the elevator that morning looking for Agent Larabee. Everyone was silently speculating about what was being said behind the closed door, but drew comfort from the group around them not making going back to their individual offices to sit alone an option.
Ezra scanned the faces of his teammates. He could tell they were all tense awaiting the outcome but at least no-one was staring accusingly at him. This was bringing about his worst fear, this couldn't be happening again, not with this team. Ezra had known straight away that Agent Fitzpatrick was IA. They all had the same air about them, maybe it was the way they walked or a certain gesture that always gave them away. Whatever it was, it always incited feelings of fear, guilt and indignation whether you were the suspect or not.
When Agent Fitzpatrick had outlined the reason for his visit, Ezra’s first reaction had been one of relief. Handling evidence after it had been obtained was not something Ezra was required to do. He always undertook the responsibility of going undercover and would normally leave the organisation of storage and logging of evidence to someone else. Although that probably wouldn’t make much difference with the IA, just being investigated was enough to ruin a career, especially if you had run out of second chances.
Ezra reviewed the last few cases in his mind. Even he’d noticed that evidence had gone missing on many of the cases they had assisted other agents with. In fact, he had even overheard wisecracks about his team becoming a jinx, although they didn’t dare say it to their faces. Obviously someone had decided to take it a step further. How could IA, or anyone else for that matter, possibly think any member of this team would steal evidence by logging it incorrectly? What proof could they possibly have. Well, besides the fact it only ever happened when Team 7 was around. Oh shit, may as well resign now.
Chris stepped out of his office looking decidedly angry, but to his credit, he was trying hard not to direct his anger at any one member of his team. Ezra shut his eyes, *Here it comes.*
"Vin, get in here now!"
Vin? What the hell? Ezra opened his eyes and noticed the bewildered expressions mirroring his own on the remaining four members of the team.
* * * * * * *
"I thought you told me that a couple of the guns from our last raid were destroyed, so you didn't see the need to fill them in on the log," Chris was watching Vin closely for any reaction, but as usual Vin’s expression gave nothing away.
"I did tell you that." From the moment Vin walked through the door he’d gone to stand defiantly in front of Chris, not even bothering to glance in Agent Fitzpatrick’s direction.
"Well, son" Agent Fitzpatrick announced trying to draw Vin’s attention. He did not like being ignored and decided to take control of his investigation. "The serial numbers on the guns that went missing have been sold on the streets. They were discovered when a couple of petty thieves were picked up."
"How do you know it’s the same guns?" Vin asked leaving his face carefully neutral and still looking in Chris’ direction.
Chris wasn’t liking this one bit. Vin would usually sit back and let people finish what they were saying. He was not usually the one to interrupt with a question. "It seems the serial numbers on the guns picked up run on from the serial numbers on the log,” Chris would have also preferred to deal with this without the other agent being present, but what could he do? “I want an explanation, Vin.".
Vin’s eyes turned pleading. Shit, this wasn’t what he expected. If only Chris could give him some time to sort this out. Vin shrugged his shoulders, “Chris, trust me. I just need....”
Agent Fitzpatrick was starting to get frustrated, this conversation was getting him nowhere, "Well if nothing is forthcoming I suggest Agent Tanner be suspended, pending investigation."
Chris finally broke the eye contact he had with Vin by glancing towards the other agent. “It’s not my investigation Vin.”
Vin finally glared at Agent Fitzpatrick, and without a word laid his gun and badge on Chris’ desk before stalking out.
* * * * * * *
Everyone stayed silent as Vin stalked out of Chris’ office heading for the elevator. They all watched as Vin waited wondering whether this would be a good time to ask him what happened Once Vin realised his friends were staring at him, he changed his mind and took the stairs instead leaving their questions unanswered.
Agent Fitzpatrick was next to come out of Chris’ office gently closing the door behind him. He looked up to observe five other glares resembling the ones he’d already suffered behind the door. Deciding this would be good time to make a quick exit, he nodded his head, "Gentlemen, I'll be in touch."
Shit, now the only person left to ask was Chris. Buck looked at the others, “Well I am his oldest friend I guess it should be me.”
Chris looked up from his desk when he heard the light knock and the door beginning to open. Buck was standing in the doorway with the others right behind him. "What's going on Chris?"
"It seems we're being accused of stealing evidence," Chris answered with a sigh. "On our last case a couple of guns went missing, and Vin came to me saying that they were destroyed. It seems Vin was lying, the guns were sold on the street."
"Vin didn't do anything," JD was getting upset and couldn’t believe he just heard Chris accuse Vin of lying.
Josiah placed a comforting hand on the kid's shoulder, "We know, Vin must have had an explanation."
Chris hated this, "If he did, he didn't say anything. He's been suspended on suspicion."
"No. Chris how could you?" JD shrugged Josiah's hand away, "I thought he was your friend, you know he would never.... don't you care?" JD realised that he was yelling at Chris and rushed out heading for his own office and closing the door behind him.
"I've never seen JD yell like that," Nathan was starting to wonder if he’d ever be able to change his expression from the shocked one he’d been wearing all morning.
"I'm certain Mr Dunne didn't mean anything by that outburst," Ezra was looking pointedly at Chris. He had heard the flat tone in Chris’ voice when he’d used the words lying and Vin in the same sentence.
Chris just wanted everyone out of his office. He wished Vin would have just told him what was going on. Sure Chris trusted him but sometimes Chris would like to know what was going on before all hell broke loose. “Whatever's going on I'm gonna get to the bottom of it, and whoever I find there is gonna have hell to pay.”
"Chris," Buck knew Chris hated not being in control and that it wouldn’t be long before Fitzpatrick, Tanner or any one of them would be seeing his temper, "I’m sure Vin thinks he’s doing the right thing. The rest of us will help you sort this out and, well, the kid's just worried."
* * * * * * *
Nathan and Josiah were searching through the evidence logs trying to pinpoint what had gone missing and how Team 7 were involved in each case. As Buck was still in with Chris, Ezra took the opportunity to quietly slip into JD's office. He knew Buck was right, JD was worried about his friend but there was more to it. JD knew something, that quick flash of guilt that crossed the kid's face hadn't gone quite unnoticed.
"Mr Dunne, perhaps you would like to talk about it."
JD looked up startled, he'd been staring at his blank computer screen. "What's there to talk about?" JD shrugged.
"It seems to me you need to speak with someone, although if you would prefer perhaps Mr Wilmington can be of more assistance?"
"Buck's got nothin' to do with this. It's just that, I don't understand why Vin would say those guns were destroyed when they weren't. He wasn't even," JD stopped abruptly.
"I see," Ezra stepped closer to JD noticing that the kid was facing anywhere but in his direction. If JD wasn’t able to tell Buck about this particular problem then Ezra certainly wasn’t going to push, besides it seemed to Ezra that JD owed Vin the explanation.
"To keep a friend from being trampled, Mr Tanner would step in front of a stampeding herd of buffalo to see if he could redirect them."
"Are you sayin' Vin was protectin' someone?" JD realised what was going on. Damn Vin, he was always sneaking around, he must have seen me in the evidence lock-up. JD knew Vin would never ask for a reason, he’d simply wait until JD felt comfortable. Well, he was never going to feel comfortable. JD shook his head and continued listening to Ezra.
"Well, it seems he was successful in his endeavour, but unfortunately for Mr Tanner they are now bearing down on him."
* * * * * * *
“Where are ya goin’ kid?” Buck had just left Chris on the phone with the Internal Affairs Department. He was glad Chris had someone to direct his anger at when he noticed JD waiting for the elevators.
JD spun around and Buck saw the pained look on the kid’s face. “Nowhere, just need some air.”
“Hey, you know Chris doesn’t believe Vin would do this. In fact he’s on the phone now talkin’ some sense into those IA guys.” Buck read the expression on JD’s face, “Unless there’s something you’re not telling me?”
“Please, Buck. I don’t need you following my every move. There’s just somewhere I need to be.” JD hated pushing Buck away. He knew Buck would try to understand, but he was also the one person JD never wanted to let down.
Buck was beginning to realise how Chris felt when people wouldn’t, or couldn’t, tell him what was going on. Admittedly, Buck was usually one of the worst offenders, but only when he was kidding around or really needed to get away with something. And never with JD, he always told the kid everything and had thought JD did the same. “Whatever it is, you know you can talk to me. JD, let me help,” the hurt in Buck’s voice was almost too much for JD to bear.
JD walked through the open elevator doors and as they were closing left Buck with a parting remark, “I don’t need your help, just leave me alone.”
* * * * * * *
"Come in JD, it's open," Vin had heard the faint knock on the door.
JD took one last look out the door. Now he was sure Buck hadn’t followed him, JD vowed he’d make it up to his best friend. But right now Vin was the one who deserved an explanation.
"How'd ya know it was me?"
Vin just smiled, "Want some coffee?"
JD nodded and slumped into a seat. "Vin, can I ask you somethin'?"
"You just did."
“Uh, yeah well, anyway, Ezra says that you were protectin’ me. Is that true? ‘Cause that was the only time I ever took anything, before I was just changing the records on the computer," JD took a deep breath as he reached out for the coffee Vin was handing to him.
"Why don't you just start at the beginning," Vin settled down across from JD and waited patiently.
"When I was in my first year at the academy my Mom got really sick. The hospital bills started piling up and the insurance company said we didn't have the right cover. The only way to pay for the treatment was to quit the academy. I told Jay, Jay Harrison, I was partnered with him at the academy. Anyway, I told Jay that I'd have to leave. Seeing as I was so good with computers and was able to hack into practically anywhere, he suggested that we change the details in the company’s files so my Mom could claim her medical bills. It seemed harmless enough and the insurance companies can't remember every entry they've ever made so they didn't notice a couple of slight changes to one file. I just really wanted to be a cop, and my Mom was so proud when I got into the Academy."
Vin nodded sympathetically, but let JD continue.
"A couple of months ago Jay called, he's a cop now but he said he needed some extra cash. All I had to do was get into the computer files and change some logging details. I guess he stole the evidence once they were moved from the agency's offices to the police lock-up. I didn't want to do it Vin. I said no, but he threatened to let the insurance company know what I'd done. He said it wouldn't take them long to realise that the computer files and the hard copy file didn't match and I'd be up for insurance fraud. I'd have to give up being an agent, I just couldn't..."
"It's okay JD." Vin understood how panicked JD must have felt. If anyone were to come along and threaten his position within the Team....
"I never told anybody, not Mom before she died, not even Buck. I was too embarrassed," JD looked directly into Vin's eyes and saw sympathy and understanding instead of the hurt and disappointment he was expecting.
"I'm going to tell Chris who's behind this, I don't care what happens to me. I should've done it in the first place.” JD now realised that with the support of his friends he could put the past behind him.
"No, this is something I've gotta do."
* * * * * * *
The vein in Chris' forehead was starting to throb. Damn Internal Affairs people. Every time he tried look up something on his own or asked one of his team to do it, they were there wanting to know what he was doing. Now he had two agents missing. Just what the hell was going on? He didn't need this. Next time someone asks me to put a team together, I'm runnin' in the opposite direction.
Just as Chris was getting ready to punch Fitzpatrick, who had decided to return to the ATF office and was now rifling through Chris’ records, JD walked in.
"Where have you been JD?" Josiah asked before Chris could say anything, keeping the peace was going to be a hard job.
"It's a long story," JD looked for Ezra and nodded his head in gratitude.
"Well then, cut to the short version," Chris was really getting sick of this, somebody better tell him something straight.
JD drew in a deep breath, here it goes, "The guy your looking for is Officer Jay Harrison."
Before JD could say any more Nathan pulled out a file from under the pile on the desk in front of him. “Jay Harrison, that’s one of the cops that looks after the police lock-up isn’t it?”
JD nodded his head in agreement. Chris finally had a straight answer and taking the lead ordered everyone to get ready to pick this guy up for questioning. Agent Fitzpatrick didn’t like relinquishing control, but was loathe to take it away from Chris. Letting Larabee lead this particular arrest seemed the safer of the two choices.
While everyone started to get ready, Buck grabbed JD by the collar and growled, “I want to know what’s goin’ on.”
JD couldn’t help but smile, at least Buck still cared enough to be mad at him, “I promise I’ll tell you everything Buck.”
* * * * * * *
Ezra's phone rang just as he was about to join his teammates in waiting for the elevator. "Agent Standish."
"Hey Ez, it's Vin. Do you know anything about breaking into insurance companies?" Ezra tilted the phone away from his mouth, "You gentlemen go on ahead, this is an important call."
* * * * * * *
Officer Harrison didn’t put up much of a fight when Agent Larabee and his team swarmed into his apartment. He didn't know anyone was onto him. JD shook his head when he noticed that Jay even had some of the stolen evidence at his house.
Agent Fitzpatrick placed Officer Harrison under arrest, “I’ll take him to our interrogation rooms. I’ll come back to your offices when I’m done, this isn’t over.”
* * * * * * *
Chris wanted some answers, preferably before Fitzpatrick showed up. "Why the hell did Vin cover for that guy? And how come he told you?" he asked looking at JD.
"Perhaps I can answer that." Everyone groaned at the sound of Agent Fitzpatrick’s voice.
Chris wasn’t even trying to hide his frustration anymore, “Do you guys think you can just waltz in whenever you want?”
Agent Fitzpatrick ignored Chris and continued with what Harrison told him in the car on the way to interrogation, "It appears Agent Tanner was covering for Agent Dunne."
"What!" Buck yelled incredulously.
JD hung his head, "It's true, I knew Jay at the Academy. I'm the one who helped him change the computer records." He chanced a glance at Buck, "I'm sorry, Buck. I wanted to tell you, I just didn’t know how."
"He never handled the merchandise, that makes it a misdemeanour," Josiah stated, "only warranting a suspension, right?"
The IA agent shook his head, he’d never met a group of people so willing to cover for each other. "Actually, Harrison claims that Agent Dunne did physically steal merchandise. And then there’s the question about insurance fraud."
"Insurance fraud!" Chris was having a really bad day, this just got more and more complicated.
JD paled visibly and turned pleading eyes towards his friends, he wished he could have untangled this mess himself. If he could just sit Buck and the others down like he had with Vin maybe he could explain. Now it was too late, Agent Fitzpatrick had already heard Jay’s version and was about to recite it to everyone.
Just as Fitzpatrick was about to begin, Vin and Ezra walked in. "You gentleman appear to be having a very serious discussion," Ezra decided to state the obvious.
"JD's been accused of insurance fraud," Nathan now knew that the shocked expressions were here to stay.
"Yeah, you tellin' me that you believe that lying sack of dirt over JD?" Vin wanted to put in his opinion too.
"That's why I'm here," Agent Fitzpatrick was starting to realise why Chris’ temper was so short, "getting Agent Dunne's version."
"What for?" Vin asked, "You could’ve just called the insurance company from your offices, instead of hassling us."
Agent Fitzpatrick rolled his eyes and stepped into Chris' office to make the call. It seemed much easier than trying to talk to these seven men. None of them had actually been forthcoming with information. Hell if he hadn’t always insisted on coming to these ATF offices he was sure that this case would have been solved or swept under the carpet without him even realising it.
JD stared open mouthed at both his so-called friends. What were they doing, gathering evidence to make him look even more guilty than he already did?
"I thought we talked about everything," Buck was starting to get concerned, this was getting serious. It looked as if JD could lose his job and standing there were Vin and Ezra (luckily for them out of Buck’s reach) helping Internal Affairs. “If you were in trouble, why didn't you just come to me?"
“I didn't know what to say. I just didn’t want you to be disappointed in me.” JD knew he was making a mess of explaining but how do you tell your best friend that you’re a fraud and a thief and that you didn't deserve to be on this team.
Chris looked over to where Vin and Ezra were standing. The matching stupid grins on both their faces made the vein in his forehead throb again, "What the hell are you doin' here? You're on suspension."
"Just didn't want to miss anything. You know how I hate not knowin' what's going on," Vin laughed.
Before Chris could reply Agent Fitzpatrick stepped out of the office, "It seems that Agent Dunne is cleared of insurance fraud. The insurance company said that the computer records were all in order. They were going to compare the original insurance form, but apparently the Dunne file was taken out of the filing cabinet in 1990 and hasn't been returned since."
"Well that takes care of that," Buck let out a sigh of relief. He still had a lot of questions and was planning on having every single one answered by JD if it took all night, but he decided it would be best to corner the kid when they were alone.
"Not quite, there is still the question of Agent Dunne physically stealing evidence,” Agent Fitzpatrick knew he was pushing his luck, but he was just following protocol.
"You've got to be kidding," Buck had taken about as much as he could.
Ezra watched Chris’ vein and Buck’s continually clenching fists and thought it best to jump in. "It should be quite obvious to everyone in this room that the miscreant you have currently under lock and key is distorting the facts, hoping for some leniency no doubt."
"Okay, you may have a point. But the suspension still stands," Agent Fitzpatrick was glad of the opportunity to let this drop, stuff protocol he was getting out.
JD sighed audibly and moved to stand between Ezra and Vin.
"Goddamn it, I've had enough," Chris was glaring at his three team members who were now grinning uncontrollably. “You three had better start explaining seeing as how you’re the only ones that seem know what’s going on."
"Well," JD thought he’d better start seeing as how this was all his fault, "Ezra compared Chris to a herd of buffalo..."
"Forget it, I've had a rotten fuckin' day. I'm goin' home and if you three are grinnin' like that tomorrow morning, I'm gonna shoot someone," Chris said as he stampeded towards the elevator.
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