The Magnificent Seven - ATF AU

To Your Health
By MMW


Part 15

"Chris!" came JDís excited shout as he appeared from the room in which heíd been working. "Ben and I think weíve got it," he admitted, grinning.

Chris stood and headed over to the young agent. "Show me what youíve got," he demanded, impatient after waiting so many hours for a break they could use. It was now approaching the dinner hour and Chris couldnít shake the feeling that time was running out.

JD went on to explain how he had discovered that Garver was using certain holding companies to cover his land purchases. After digging through that companyís files, he had located the purchase of a small island in the midst of Lake Erie.

"What information do you have and can you get?" Larabee demanded of Wright and Robb.

"Probably not enough," Robb admitted. "Itís private property and isnít patrolled very often."

Chris nodded and then looked thoughtfully at Buck.

Buck caught the green eyes and felt his own widen. "Itís been a lot of years, Chris," he said, pupils dilating in eager anticipation, already knowing what his answer would be.

Chris grinned, his eyes gleaming. "But weíve been getting it back," he responded.

Buck nodded in agreement. "True. But weíre a long way from where we were back then." He watched the blondís grin widen.

"If you think youíre too old...." he taunted.

Buck grinned at the challenge. "Younger than you, old man." The two friends locked eyes a moment longer before Buck asked one last question. "If we go and we find them, are you going to be able to leave them behind and do it right?"

Chris sobered immediately. He and Buck had started re-training on some of their old navy skills from when they were in the SEALs. It had seemed only natural to assume that the two of them would use those skills to do some covert information gathering. He hadnít thought about the personal effect it would have on him if they came across Vin and Ezra and had to leave them behind.

He, like the rest of the team, desperately wanted to take down Garver and his organization not only for the arms deals, but for taking Ezra and Vin. In his eagerness he hadnít thought of the effect seeing his friends and leaving them would have on him.

Buck watched as the blondís smile faded and he became thoughtful. He hadnít wanted to kill the idea, just make sure Chris had thought it all the way through. Eventually he saw the familiar green eyes focus back in the present and waited for Chrisís answer.

"We have a job to do," he said. He saw Buck nod his agreement and then turned toward the rest of the men to discuss his idea and plans.

<><><><><><><>

Vin felt a sharp pain on his cheek. Suppressing a groan as he slowly rose to consciousness, he blinked his eyes. The world swam for a few minutes before the face of Winston Garver coalesced in his sight. As memories of what had been happening came back to mind, he suppressed another groan.

"Nice to see you back with us, Mr. Tanner," he said. "I trust those bonds arenít too tight?"

Vin blinked several more times and struggled understand what Garver meant. When he tried to lift his hand to hold his head, Vin found he couldnít lift it. Eyes widening as adrenalin and fear shot into his system, he looked down and saw thick leather straps holding him tightly to a chair. Head snapping up, he glared at the madman before him even as he wondered what all the monitors were doing attached to him.

"I felt they were necessary for the little experiment I have planned for you," he said. Seeing the question and fear in the young manís eyes, he smiled cruelly. This would be even more fun than he thought. "You see, Mr. Tanner, I did some research into you and Mr. Standish. I am aware of your background. I know that all of your professions have not only required a certain amount of skill, but also physical fitness." At this point, he reached over onto the table that was behind him and lifted a syringe. "As such, I became curious as to what sort of benefits such an active lifestyle had on a man." He made a show of checking the syringe to ensure it was ready to be injected. Then, meeting Vinís wary blue eyes, he explained, "At my last physical, I was given a stress test. Not the normal one on a treadmill, but a chemical stress test. I find myself curious as to just how much stress your system can handle."

Vin felt his muscles tense as someone stepped up next to him and slid a length of rubber around his arm. He felt it tighten and knew he had no choice.

"Iím not sure exactly what sort of reaction this will have with the remnant of the tranquilizer still in your system, so Iíve prepared several courses of the drug. Donít worry Iíll be sure to inject you with the antidote and give you a good five minutes to rest between times. I think it will be a fascinating process to discover your fitness level and see how it fares over time." With that statement he stepped forward and gave Vin the first injection, waiting with great curiosity to see the effects.

<><><><><><><>

Ezra had no idea how long it had been when the door once more opened and the limp form of his friend was unceremoniously thrown on the stone floor of the cell. Closing his eyes briefly, he felt his frustration build until it nearly overwhelmed the pain. He wanted nothing more to go over and help his friend, offer the same comfort Vin had given him, but his bruised abdomen and back prevented such movements. He had tried to sit up on his own earlier and passed out from the pain. All he could do now was lie on the cot and wait for Vin to regain consciousness.

Though he had little concept of time in this place, he knew it had been several hours since Vin had been taken away. He could only imagine what form of torture the maniac had inflicted on his friend.

Ezra knew he had fallen asleep because a groan from the Texan roused him. "Vin," he called out as loudly as he dared. "Vin, wake up," he called. He needed to know his friendís condition and he needed to use the bucket again. Feeling a flare of anger at thinking of his own needs, he shoved it aside, knowing it wouldnít help either of them in their current situation. "Vin!" he called one more time.

A low groan sounded from the crumpled form on the floor as the body shifted into wakefulness. The head lifted slightly as another groan escaped.

Vin felt awful. He wasnít sure to whom this body belonged, but he prayed it wasnít his. Heíd never felt so wretched, so exhausted, so... off. He heard a voice call to him one more time. He knew this voice. "Ez?" he asked, his voice little more than a dry whisper.

"Thank God," Ezra replied, truly thankful that his friend was still with him. "Youíre back in the cell with me, Vin," he explained. "Can you tell me what they did to you?" He had to know. He had to be able to assess the other manís physical condition.

Vinís eyes flew open as his stomach began rebelling. He managed to drag himself over to the corner where he had stored their waste buckets before what felt like the entire contents of his body left him. Propped up on his hands and knees, head hanging down as he tried to gather the strength he would need to continue breathing, thoughts began to form in his mind. The first was that Ezra needed him. As he waited for more information to be recalled, Standishís question penetrated his brain. "S... st... st... stress tests," he managed to gasp out. Before the thought that heíd been gone a long time coalesced.

Ezraís brow furrowed. "He made you run?" Ezra asked, puzzled by the response.

Vin tried to stand only to collapse back to the floor, the thought that Ezra needed him once more coming to the fore. He wondered bitterly how he was supposed to help his friend when he had no energy to help himself. Still, digging down, he drew upon his dwindling reserves and managed to corral one of the buckets. He had to do this because he knew they were both in bad shape and if he didnít do this now, bring this bucket to where they could use it, he wouldnít be able to later. His own pain faded slightly as he focused on the task at hand. Making his way across the room, he didnít hear Ezraís second question.

Guilt assailed the Southerner once more. His friend was obviously hurting, obviously not in good shape, yet Vin struggled to care for him. "Rest Mr. Tanner," Ezra ordered.

Vin heard Ezraís order to rest. "In... minute," he grunted. He was almost there, almost to the goal.

Ezra watched the painful progress. Other emotions began running though him after the initial sting of guilt left, thankfulness at having someone in his life care so much about him that they would put his needs above their own, thankfulness at having not one, but six such people in his life, wonder at his friendís determination and drive. But what baffled him, was the odd sense of hope that seemed to fill him at the sight of his ailing friend struggling so hard. Somehow that, more than anything else, allowed him to believe they would actually escape this situation.

Heíd done it. Heíd achieved his goal. Feeling his strength fading once more as the world began to darken at the edges of his vision, Vin rolled onto his back and struggled to sit up. Before he could accomplish that task, the darkness consumed him.

Ezra watched as his friend struggled to sit up before collapsing.. Biting back the screams of pain, he forced himself into a sitting position. Reaching out, he touched Vinís shoulder. "You need to wake up," Standish insisted, shaking the Sharpshooter slightly. When he was unable to rouse his friend, Ezra sighed in resignation and cursed his weakness. After all Vin had done for him, he couldnít even help his friend off of the cold, hard floor.

<><><><><><><>

"You sure you two are ready for this?" Josiah asked, of Larabee and Wilmington as the two men checked over their gear one last time.

Chris and Buck exchanged a look and then both grinned, their teeth showing white in the darkness.

Sanchez shook his head. He had managed to talk his way into this mission, but he still harbored some doubts. Yes, Chris and Buck were experienced SEALs, but it had been a number of years since theyíd done anything like this and Josiah was fairly certain theyíd underestimated the impact seeing their brothers might have, especially if, God forbid, they were in less than perfect health. Knowing it was too late to turn back now, he nodded his head, determined to be there to offer what comfort he could afterward. "Then God go with you," he offered as the two men disappeared over the side of the craft.

Part 16

"Ez you awake?"

Ezra blinked several times at the sound of his friendís soft drawl. "Yes," he responded, too tired and sore to say much more.

"You done any research on your condition?"

Ezra smiled at the delicate wording his friend was using. He could tell by the hesitancy in the voice that Vin was worried about upsetting him by treading on a painful subject. Thinking about how he felt, Ezra had to admit that since telling Vin about being diagnosed with diabetes the whole situation seemed less terrifying. "Iíve done a lot of research into it," he admitted, stifling a groan as he shifted slightly. "Iím afraid, though, that I allowed my fear of the potential complications to overwhelm me."

"Whatís changed now?" Vin asked, trying to gather the energy necessary to move across the room and pick up the food trays that had been left a few minutes before.

"I discovered I wasnít alone," Ezra replied, his smile broadening as Vinís blue eyes turned to meet his.

"Never," the Texan affirmed. "Weíre always there for you, even when you donít want us," he assured with a grin.

Fighting the urge to laugh at the truth of that statement, Ezra nodded his acknowledgment. Then releasing another soft groan, he explained, "There are actually a number of options available for treatment including some new drugs that should keep me from needing to take insulin shots. But I think that I would like to first try altering my diet and exercise routine."

Vin let out a groan of his own.

Concerned, Ezra scanned his friendís face but couldnít figure out what was wrong. "What is it?" he asked, worried.

"As if it isnít bad enough to have Nate after me about how I eat, now Iím going to have the both of you," Vin teased.

Picking up on the playful tone, Ezra grinned and played along. "Oh, absolutely," he agreed. "Mr. Jackson has been correct for years!"

Vin laughed aloud. "Can I tell him you said that?" he asked, mischief playing in his blue eyes.

Ezraís eyes grew wider as he realized what heíd said. A chagrined look crossed his face, but he had to sigh and concede the point - it was true, Nathan was usually correct in his dietary recommendations. "Yes, you may tell him," he allowed. An idea sprang to his mind. He and Nathan might just be able to pull it off together... "Of course," he continued, "as a show of support, I know the rest of the team will be more than happy to alter their own eating habits to fall in line with ours." The look of horror on Vinís face at the thought of having to, to use the Texanís words, eat like a rabbit was just a little too much and Ezra laughed; a sound which quickly became a groan of pain.

Vin heard the laugh become a groan and quickly reached out to his friend, resting his hand on Ezraís shoulder. "Itís OK, Ez," he soothed. "Just take some shallow breaths. Slow it down." Seeing the level of pain increasing on his friendís face, Vin reached out and took Ezraís hand. "Squeeze my hand to help with the pain," he encouraged, almost regretting the offer as he felt the painful strength of Ezraís grasp. Speaking in soothing tones, the two men rode out the waves of pain until Ezra was left exhausted. "Iím going to get our food now," Vin told him quietly, trying not to let his own fatigue show.

Ezra watched his friend rise up and winced at the slow, pained movements. Whatever theyíd done to Vin hadnít left a mark, but it had hurt all the same. "What did they do to you?" he asked, his curiosity getting the better of him.

"Stress tests," Vin replied, as he moved all the food to one tray to carry.

"You said that before," Ezra observed, puzzled.

"Because thatís what they did," Vin said, a smile on his face as he settled on the floor beside his battered friend. "Looks like bologna sandwiches and juice boxes. Guess weíre in elementary school again," he observed wryly.

Though he heard Vinís words, Ezra was studying his friendís face. "What do you mean stress tests?" he persisted.

Vin sighed as he worked one of the plastic straws into the juice box. Heíd been hoping that Ezra would just let this drop, the man had enough to worry about. "They injected me with a drug they said was a chemical stress test," he replied, lifting the box to Ezraís mouth so the man would drink. Hopefully food would distract the Southerner from his questions.

Ezra saw a wisp of fear curl through the blue eyes. It wasnít just a shot. "Tell me," he demanded as the juice was finally taken away.

Vin sighed. "They hit me with a tranquilizer here. When I woke up..." Vin trailed off here, his throat constricting at the thought of the straps holding him down. He unconsciously began rubbing at his wrists.

"When you woke up, what?" Ezra said, his gaze intense.

Vin sighed. "They had me strapped into a chair. I couldnít move," he admitted as he took a bite of the sandwich, pushing away the thoughts of being trapped, of his heart pounding far too quickly, his breathing almost uncontrollable and being left in that state for far longer than he should have been. "What was that white card you brought with you?" Vin asked seeking anything he could to direct Ezraís attention away from his own trial.

Ezra knew what Vin was doing and was aware that discussing being strapped down and unable to move was not a way to keep his friend calm in their locked cell. The question puzzled him, though. "What card?" Standish asked.

Vin turned to look at his friend. "In Toledo, you were searching for something through all your stuff and eventually pulled out a little white card. What was it?"

Ezraís brows drew down in thought before he recalled what Vin meant. "Oh, that. It is a, as Buck would call it, Ďcheat sheetí that my doctor gave me. At my last visit, he felt it best we begin planning for the eventuality I did have adult onset diabetes." Reaching around to feel his back pocket, and suppressing the groan of pain the movement caused, he drew out his wallet and brought it to where he could see it. After a few moments of rifling through the contents, he pulled out the card and held it toward Vin. "It is a list of a few common food items and their exchange."

Vin nodded and examined the card for a moment before handing it back. "Donít see bologna sandwiches on there," he said with a small grin, satisfied when Ezra grinned back. "Nice of him to leave our wallets and ID," Vin noted, reaching back to check his own wallet. Pulling it out, he flipped it open and stopped dead at the sight before him. Where he had expected to see Evin Dailyís driverís license, he instead found his own. "Um, Ez?" he asked.

"Yes?" Ezra asked, quickly losing interest in everything other than sleep.

"Mind if I take a look at your wallet for a minute?" The Texan inquired turning to look at his friend. Reading the question in Ezraís eyes, he waited for Standish to nod before taking the wallet. When he looked at the driverís license he let out a soft curse.

"What is it?" Ezra asked, concerned.

Vin turned and looked directly into Ezraís eyes. "Theyíre our real driverís licenses," he explained.

Ezraís eyes grew. His own... Holding out his hand as far as he could, he waited for Vin to return the wallet before looking for himself. He swallowed hard as he read the name: Ezra P. Standish. His eyes once more locked with Vinís. "It wasnít Cole," he observed. "He was gone before our IDís were taken to be locked away."

Vin nodded. "Could have been anyone else in the office. Hemke was a mite worried and skittish."

Ezra paused and thought about that. Marvin Hemke had been nervous around them, but he had seemed to lose interest in them as they prepared to leave his turf. Besides which, the man was power hungry. He was looking to advance his career, not get out. That left two people it could have been and Ezra didnít want to believe it was either of them. Running through what he knew of each man as well as reviewing their actions he tried to figure out which would have done this. "Obviously someone wanted them to make the correct identification of our bodies," Ezra informed.

Vin nodded having already figured that much out. "But who? If it wasnít Cole..."

"Either Calder or Sam," Ezra said softly.

"That kid?" Vin asked in disbelief. Then, pausing to think about it, he had to admit that it made a lot of sense. Not only had Sam Advis had access to their ID's but he'd known every place they would be staying and every move they made. What did they really know of the man other than that he was young, eager and easily dismissed as a threat? Nodding his head in resignation, he could only return his wallet to his pocket and fight the feeling of betrayal. Taking Ezraís wallet from his hands, Vin closed it and slipped it into the Southernerís pocket once more. As he settled down, their door opened and Garver, along with five armed guards, stepped in.

"Gentlemen," he greeted, his smile cruel, his eyes gleaming. "I hope you enjoyed your small repast. I have decided to try something different for our next session. I thought you might like to actually see what happens to each other as it happened so you wonít have to waste time afterwards discussing it." With a move of his hands, two men lifted Vin off the floor and held him in a secure grip. Two others lifted Ezra, supporting the injured man between them. Turning to leave, Garver explained, "I saw a fascinating show on pressure points a few months ago and have done some reading on the subject. I thought it would be a most interest thing to try on a live subject. So, one of you will have the great honor of being my test subject. As for the other... Well... Iíve always been fascinated with knives..."

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Buck felt Chrisí grip tighten on his shoulder, holding him back as he unconsciously moved forward to free his friends. Instead, he stood his ground and felt his anger turn to rage as he watched the retreating figures.

After leaving the boat, the two men had little trouble making their way to the island. Through JD and Benís excellent work, they knew what they were facing as far as security went. Watching for several hours from a distance, they had determined that, while guards did patrol the island, their rounds left large portions of the shore unguarded at any one time.

Making their way onto the land, they committed their path and findings to memory as they worked toward the large house in the middle of the island. As they approached the house, the patrols became more pervasive and they needed to find cover. Scanning the house from a distance, they determined that their best point of entry would be the storm cellar. What they hadnít expected was the storm cellar to lead down to a second basement. They had slowly made their way down the hall, checking rooms and seeking shelter when voices or footsteps echoed.

In the second room they viewed, Buck had felt his anger begin. He had met Chrisí eyes and read his own emotions mirrored there. This room and the things in it could only serve one purpose and neither of them liked to think of it.

A suddenly renewed need to see their missing comrades filled both men as they continued on their way down the hall.

They were almost to the end of it when they heard the murmur of two voices. Moving forward, they crouched down before the door feeling relief when they heard both Vin and Ezraís voices. Their relief was quickly tempered, not only by the obvious pain they heard in Ezraís voice, but by the topic of conversation they heard the two discussing. Once more blue eyes met green.

Just then the sound of footsteps echoed in the hall and the two men took shelter in a cell across from Vin and Ezraís.

Hidden in the shadows, Buck and Chris watched and listened as Garver came in and made his observations. It was the threat of torture that had caused Chrisí hand to rest on Buckís shoulder. It was the sight of exhaustion on Vinís face and the livid bruising on Ezraís torso that had caused Buck to start forward. Wilmington felt the bile rise in his mouth at the thought of what his friends had endured and what they would be going through as he and Chris searched the house and swam back to safety. It wasnít right that they had to sit there and do nothing, the whole time knowing that their friends, their brothers were suffering just a few floors away.

"Go."

The order was barely more than a breath, but Buck nodded and set out to complete their mission.

Several hours later, they appeared at the side of the boat. Josiah helped both men into the vessel. One look at their faces in the dim light was enough to convince him that all was not well. "Ezra and Vin?"

Buck looked away, jaw clenched.

"Alive," Chris said, his voice flat. The tension in his body and the intense fire in his eyes the only sign of what this trip had cost him.

Josiah nodded grimly. He couldnít help Vin and Ezra now, but he needed to get these two thinking straight and ready to act.

"He was taking them away to torture them - again," Buck spat, unable to hold in the anger any longer.

Josiahís eyes widened in horror as his throat constricted.

"We saw Garverís men take them from their cell. Theyíve already been tortured once," Chris added, his eyes focused on the deck of the boat.

"Ezraís been beaten. Donít know what he did to Vin," Buck explained.

"Heís going to use a knife on one of them and make the other watch," Chris choked out, running a hand through his hair, his mind conjuring images of the madman torturing his friends.

"We didnít do anything," Buck whispered, guilt and pain evident in his voice.

"We searched the house and left. he whole time they were down there..."

Josiah had heard more than enough. He could feel his own rage boiling into an almost uncontrollable frenzy, but that wouldnít do right now. For now, his friends needed comfort and reassurance. Looking into the darkness, he took a deep breath and released it slowly Reaching out, he put hand on each manís shoulder and squeezed, his own heart still too full to offer much comfort. "Theyíre alive," he said, his voice more steady than he thought possible. "Now letís get back and take him down." Two pairs of eyes rose and met his. Josiah nodded and moved to the controls of the boat.

Part 17

Ezra and Vin lay on the floor of their cell exactly where they had been dropped by Garverís thugs. Neither man could move. Neither man had the energy. Green eyes met blue and stared. Pain was evident in both pairs. Pain that had been there for too long. Neither man had any idea how long theyíd been held captive, but both were thankful that their latest session with Garver had been cut short.

"You?" Ezra managed to ask, in too much pain to form the whole sentence.

"Fine," Vin replied, his eyes sliding shut as another wave of pain from his latest encounter swept through him.

Ezra couldnít stop the small grin from forming on his lips. "Liar," he asserted. He was rewarded with two blue slits staring at him and a crooked smile. "Still bleeding?" he asked, concern weighing heavily in his voice.

Vin sighed and wished he had the energy to shrug. He didnít, so he settled for a short response, "Donít think so."

"Vin," Ezra began, suddenly unable meet the blue eyes. "Iím sorry."

Vinís brow wrinkled as bewilderment filled him. "For what? Nothing more you could have done," he replied honestly.

Thinking back to the scene in the other room, Ezra knew that was true. Garver had decided, via toss of a coin, that Vin would experience his prowess with the knife first, before the madman started experimenting on Ezra. Strapping Standish to the chair that had held Vin, Ezra had watched in horror as his friend fought against the men who were about to chain him to an iron ring in the ceiling. It was a quick blow to the head that stunned the sharpshooter long enough for them to complete the task.

The ring was at least a foot higher than the one Ezra had been tied to and Vinís feet were unable to touch the floor. Garver had taken great pleasure in displaying his knife collection and discussing the history of his pieces. When Vin was fully cognizant again, Garver had started in. At first he just made a few small cuts Ė nothing deep, but painful and annoying. That pain had been increased as he rubbed salt into each wound.

Vin, being Vin, had smarted off to the man. Ezra had prayed the Texan would hold his tongue. watching the madman torment his friend was almost beyond bearing for the Southerner, seeing that pain increase was unthinkable. Ezra just wanted to cry out and demand Garver stop, but knew any protest he could offer would just increase the pain of Vinís experience.

Standish watched in horror as Garverís madness met with anger. The flare of murder died quickly, though, and the calculating torturer was back. With a cruel smile, Garver indicated that one of the people on-hand should stop Vinís bleeding and wipe away the blood and salt. After doing so, Garver selected a different knife and stepped up to Vin. Ezra felt bile rise to his throat as Garver slid the knife between Vinís skin and his ribs. The scream of pain torn from his friendís throat was something he wouldnít forget.

It was at this moment that one of Garverís guards interrupted with the news that someone was on the island.

With a passionate curse, Winston quickly removed the knife from its location in Vinís body and ordered the two agents brought back to their cell. But first, he signaled someone and a white-hot knife was brought forward. Taking the knife, he applied it to Vinís wound, sealing it. His face contorted with pleasure at the hiss of flesh and the nearly inhuman cry torn from the Texan. He left the room after Vin passed out.

"Do you thinkÖ" Ezra began, afraid to finish the thought, afraid to hope.

Vin turned and grinned as much as his pain would allow. "They do have good timing," he observed. Then, wincing as pain from his various wounds washed over him, he continued, "I trust Dennis."

Ezra nodded, "I concur. And if Mr. Wright did get a hold of Mr. Larabee and informed him of our statusÖ"

"Olí Chris would have the boys here in a heartbeat."

"But why, if they were here, didnít they take us with them?"

Vin sighed and closed his eyes. "Could be a couple of things. Most likely, though, they either didnít know we were here or theyíre trying to get info so they can take Garver down legal." Hearing nothing, he turned and looked at Ezra. "íSides, I donít think either of us are in a condition to escape just now," he grimaced.

Ezra nodded his agreement at that statement. Hopefully whoever had come would know that they were there and would return for them before Garver took flight.

<><><><><><><>

Nathan woke up at the sound of the door opening. He had insisted he and JD both try to get some rest while waiting for Buck, Chris and Josiah to return. JD had been unable to settle, but Nathan gave thanks for his time in the military that had taught him to grab sleep where he could. Robb and Wright had found places to sleep as well. Hastings had gone home for a few hours and Hemke... Nathan felt an evil grin spread across his face. He was sure Chris would approve. Jackson could only hope that the Toledo Team Leader wasnít claustrophobic.

"Youíre back!" came JDís excited call as the young man came rushing out of the room where heíd been since their arrival at the Sandusky offices. Heíd taken the opportunity to do a bit more digging Ė both legally and illegally Ė for signs of Garver and his plans. He had almost enough to send the man away, but nothing that would allow them to get a search warrant for the island. Hopefully the other guys had found something they could use.

Chris tossed a small bag to Dunne who opened it and immediately returned to his computers. With a tilt of his head, Chris indicated he wanted Buck to go with him and help. He also knew his old friend would need something to help him get over what theyíd seen and having to leave Vin and Ezra behind. Once Buck was gone, Chris turned a grim face toward his other two teammates.

"Bad?" Nathan asked. He knew the answer, but needed to ask.

Chrisí lips thinned. Looking away, he ran a hand through his hair. "Heís torturing them."

Nathan heard the quaver in Larabeeís controlled voice and felt his own heart plummet. "How bad?" He needed to know, had to ask, not just because these were his brothers but because he would have to prepare for their injuries.

Chris sighed and hung his head. "Looks like they beat on Ezra pretty bad. Vin wasnít moving well either but I couldnít see anything wrong. They wereÖ" Chrisí voice failed him. Clearing his throat, he continued, "They were taking them to be tortured when we had to get moving."

Nathan released a curse as acute worry for Vin and Ezra shot through him. "Do you knowÖ"

Josiah, seeing Chris wasnít ready to speak again replied, "One of them would be cut with knives the other be a test subject for his fascination with pressure points."

Nathan felt his stomach clench. He was well aware of how much damage a knife could do, how much pain it could inflict without killing. To think of a friend suffering such things caused a shudder to run down his spine. Shoving aside his own feelings, he looked into Chrisí eyes. "You did what you had to, what we needed you to do. We have to do this legally." He saw the pain and guilt recede from his friendís eyes and the cool control once more surface.

Larabee nodded his thanks at Nathanís absolution. Jackson was right. Now was the time to find a way in, not for emotions. "Wake Robb and Wright. Letís get them started looking. Weíll need Robb to start thinking of what judge we need to get the warrants. Whereís Hemke?"

Nathan grinned. "I put him in time out - in the utility closet - and locked the door. The cleaning people should let him out eventually."

Chris felt a smile tug at his lips. Hopefully Hemke would learn his lesson. Seeing Nathan move off to wake the other two men, Chris looked at Josiah and saw compassion and determination in his eyes. "We will get them back," Chris affirmed.

"And Garver will pay," Josiah finished, vengeance dripping from his words.

<><><><><><><>

The cool light of dawn kissed the cloudless sky as the world below once more moved toward wakefulness and activity. The secrets hidden by the darkness and night went slinking back to their hiding places for the next few hours, too ashamed to let any look upon them.

Winston Garver stood at the window of his office and felt rage boiling inside. He cursed his luck, his minions, his son and the day he ever allowed the soft-spoken, fellow Texan to override his good business sense and make a deal with the supposed dealers. He had been less than happy to discover that they were ATF agents and the need to get away from them necessitated his "death". Now, so many months later, he finally had the two men in his clutches and he would most likely have to leave them behind, his revenge unfinished. And all because he had overlooked one small thing; one thing that no one had bothered point out to him Ė the rest of Team Seven.

Still staring eastward to the coming morn, he heard the sound of one of his employees opening the door behind him. "Prepare everything to leave. Weíll head to the alternate island," he ordered. He heard the door close behind him and sighed. There was just one decision left to make, would he bring the troublemakers with him or eliminate them before he left.

<><><><><><><>

Buck came rushing out of the computer room with JD on his heels. "We got it," he announced.

The team had been working on finding a way to use the information theyíd gathered to give them a legal lead. They knew that if they wanted to nail Garver it would have to be done legally and above board. The information they gathered on the island was all tainted, but it had given them a place to start and allowed them to backtrack through the tangled maze of Garverís enterprises, dealings and finances until they finally found a starting point. There had been a shipment directly to the island from the Caribbean. A quarantine had been placed on all such shipments two days before it had been delivered. They would need to involve Customs in such search, but it was a place to start. Without using the information they had gathered, they had been able to find several other manifests one of which came from a group in Mexico that he WCB had listed as suspected dealers. It wasnít much, but it was enough.

"Can you work it?" Chris demanded after Buck and JD had gone over everything.

Robb looked at the information they had and slowly nodded his head. "I think so. Iíll just go ahead and wake up Judge Johnston." Then, looking over at Ben, who had returned when Robb called him, "Get them set up and get it organized, I should be back in about thirty minutes."

Hastings nodded and headed off, motioning Josiah and Nathan to follow him.

As Robb left and the others began gathering equipment, Chris took a moment to look out the window of the conference room. Seeing the sky turning grey, he whispered, "Hang on boys, just hang on."

<><><><><><><>

Ezra suppressed a groan as consciousness once more invaded the solemn comfort of sleep. He decided he was tired of hurting and had experienced more than enough agony to last him quite a while. The truth was, right now he longed for the hospital he loathed and the wonderful drugs that would make the pain go away.

"Howíre you doing?" Vin asked.

Ezraís eyes shot open as the soft, pain-filled rasp reached his ears. Looking over, he could see the color on Vinís cheeks indicating fever. The overly bright blue eyes only confirmed his suspicion. "Unfortunately about the same," Ezra replied, wincing as he moved the wrong way.

Vin let his eyes slide shut as he nodded his head, acknowledging the response. He had a fever and knew it, but they didnít have time. Something was happening outside their cell and he couldnít tell what it was. "Somethingís going on, Ez," he informed softly. "People been scurrying around down here like mice with a cat after Ďem and now itís been quiet."

Ezra absorbed what he was being told and nodded. "Perhaps our surmise was correct and our teammates visited last night. The activity could be a direct result."

Vin nodded. "Just hope the boys get here Ďfore he takes us away," he said.

"Or takes us out," Ezra added softly.

<><><><><><><>

Calder Robb stalked into the room, warrant in his hand, the ink still wet. "Letís go boys, weíve got the warrant."

The other men in the room stood and headed out. They would be meeting reinforcements along the way.


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