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Curse of the Seven 1
Title: Curse of the Seven
Universe: Neither Heaven nor Hell
Summary: When a curse is removed Martin Fitzgerald finds out he isn't who he thinks he is.
Warnings: This is an AU of the Two Blood AU by Joe Lawson and a crossover with Without a Trace
Disclaimer: I own nothing of the Two Blood AU, the Magnificent Seven or Without a Trace
Rating: T for teen or PG13
The men and women of the New York FBI Missing Persons Unit waited in the waiting room of the Magical Injuries Unit of the local hospital and fretted over the welfare of their youngest member, Martin Fitzgerald. He had been just fine, although a little run down for about a week, making jokes about the visit from his parents wearing him out. Until he collapsed in the bullpen no one had realized he was really sick. It was the doctors in the ER who had diagnosed Martin with a curse. Now they were waiting for one of the Witches on staff to come and tell them how he was.
Danny knew that curses were hard to detect, but there had been nothing that could have had this effect on his partner. This wasn't a regular curse, it had all the earmarks of a death curse and there was nothing in the last few weeks that could have someone that mad at his partner. They'd had several cases but all of them had been regular run of the mill stuff. They hadn't had anything really serious for about three weeks and death curses were very swift. The time frame was all wrong.
Jack looked at the members of his team sitting and pacing around the waiting room. He could tell that they all were trying to figure out how Martin had such a strong curse placed on him. Knowing Danny he was kicking himself and going back over their cases looking for a perp he had missed. Sam would be worried more about Martin's health and kicking herself over not getting him to the hospital sooner. Viv, well, she would be doing both. Jack knew however that it probably hadn't had anything to do with Martin at all. Unknown to the members of his team, Martin was the son of one of the FBI's Assistant Directors, and a highly placed one at that. It was only a matter of time before someone found out about his family and used Martin as a bargaining chip against his father. They would have no idea that Martin and his father didn't get along.
"Agent Malone?" Jack stood up and faced the Witch that was approaching him. She was fairly short, with long brown hair and brown eyes that looked very weary in her young face. If she was over thirty Jack would eat a crow. However, no one who served in this unit of the hospital was anything but the best.
"I'm Jack Malone. How is Martin?" He said.
"Well, the good news is we know exactly what is wrong with him. The bad news is there are some very strange complications." She sat down in a chair and gestured to all four of the FBI Agents to sit down as well. "First off my name is Witch Chloe and I've worked a lot with curses placed on children. Before you all tell me that Martin isn't a child, I'm well aware of that. But this curse was placed on him when he was a small child, most likely as a toddler."
"Why on earth would someone put a curse on a toddler?" Viv cried.
"I'm told that all of you work in Missing Persons?" Chloe asked.
"Yes we do." Jack said, waving his team down. It wouldn't do Martin any good for them to get upset at his Witch.
"This curse is often put on infants and small children who have been kidnapped and sold in illegal adoptions. The curse is placed on the child to suppress the child's memories and to make them compliant to their new parents. The parents get a wonderful, obedient child. The thing is, this curse kills the child years down the road but I have never seen anyone survive it beyond their fifteenth birthday. Ten years is the maximum and there is no way this was placed on him when he was sixteen. Somehow, he had a spell placed on him when he was an infant that is fighting off the curse. I don't know how it is doing that but it is finally starting to succumb to the curse. What I do know is that I have removed the curse and when he wakes up, any and all memories repressed by the curse are going to come flooding back. Right now he is going to need some friendly faces with him. Do you know who his best friends are and can you contact them? It is extremely important."
"That would be me." Danny said firmly. He had often told Martin he should get out and socialize more, but now he was grateful that Martin's closest relationships were always with his coworkers.
"We'll all go." Jack said just as firmly. Witch Chloe smiled and led them back to a room where Martin lay on a hospital bed. Martin was asleep, but already they could tell that he was doing better because his face had lost the pallor that had scared them so badly.
When Martin came awake it was very abruptly and immediately he grabbed for his tie and began choking. Within seconds he had ripped the tie off his neck and flung it as far away as he could. As he sat gasping on the bed both Danny and Jack reached for him, only to find themselves attacked by the man on the bed. Picking themselves up off the floor and gasping themselves, they turned towards the man who had backed himself into a corner and was visible prepared to fight to the death.
"It's all right; we're not going to hurt you. You're in a hospital. Can you tell us what the last thing you remember is?" Vivian asked softly as she stood in between Martin and the others.
"Who are y'all?" Came the quiet drawl.
"My name is Vivian. I work for the FBI. Please, tell me what the last thing you remember is?" Vivian pleaded.
"Hangin' I all'ays die by hangin'." Vin Tanner looked around at the people in the room. They were familiar. He just couldn't place them.
The Texan drawl surprised the team almost as much as the declaration of death by hanging seeming to be a common event. Was Martin talking about a nightmare? "Hanging you said?" Witch Chloe said with suspicion. She took a closer look at the spell that she could now see clearly, as well as the six off shoots from the spell that she hadn't seen before. "You are under a reincarnation curse, aren't you?" She asked suddenly. Vin nodded. He knew she was a Witch, he wasn't sure how he knew, but he did. "Do you have access to the memories of your previous lives?"
"Yep. All three of `em."
"Well, how about this life?" Witch Chloe asked. She had a feeling she knew who this man was, or rather who he was supposed to have been. There was one very famous reincarnation curse and it involved seven different men. It was held up to all young witches as an example of ingenuity under extreme circumstances. The curse of the seven. A widowed hedge-witch with a young son had been blackmailed with her son's life into cursing the seven lawmen of her town. Knowing that the outlaws that had her weren't the smartest bunch in the barrel but able to feel her magic, she had done as they had demanded. They had then dragged the hedge-witch and her son back into town with them to confront the lawmen and tell them what she had done. The men who had survived the confrontation had been arrested and then the lawmen had told her they hadn't blamed her for what she had done. They had only wanted to know what to expect from the curse. She smiled and told them that they would never enter heaven nor would they enter hell. They would be tied to this world and each other for all of time, death and birth would be a cycle for them and they would always remember the lives they had led before. The leader of the lawmen had grinned at her and said it sounds more like a blessing to me. Twice the seven men had been reborn and had gathered together to become lawmen once again. Chloe suspected she was about to witness the third.
Vin searched his memories, and as he looked for them he remembered. "AW HELL!" He sat down on the floor abruptly. "Sorry Jack, Danny you alright?"
"We're fine, Fitz, the question is are you alright?" Danny said quickly.
"My name is Vin Tanner. I won't answer to anything else." Vin said firmly. It didn't matter to him that this time around he had been adopted. His name wasn't and never would be Martin Fitzgerald. He was ashamed enough to have forgotten his promise to his mother to never forget he was a Tanner. It was only the spell that he remembered someone putting on him that eased that shame at all. Spells were out of his control. If he let anyone call him Martin now, well that was in his control and it would be a slap to his mother's memory. That was something he couldn't bring himself to do.
"Ok, Vin. Are you alright?" Jack said. He didn't care what Martin was calling himself and for all he knew Vin Tanner really was his name, he just wanted to know if he was alright. The rest could wait for later.
"Yeah, I'm alright. Just don' make me put somethin' around ma neck like that." Vin shuddered. He hated how ties reminded him of the time that he had been lynched or the time he had died jumping out of that airplane. The cord from his chute had wrapped around his neck in a freak accident, and when the chute had opened it had snapped his neck instantly. He had been dead before he had hit the ground.
"No problem, but you still have to wear a suit. The tie you can get away with ditching. I'd say having been hung is a good enough reason for you not to have to wear it." Jack reassured Vin.
"Thanks." Vin said. "Think ya'll can get me into a sniper course?" He figured he might as well get started on getting his skills back up to snuff. Chris and the boys would find him soon enough. It wouldn't do to have the sharpshooter behind the times by about fifty years or so.
"A sniper course?" Danny asked.
"That stupid spell clamped me down hard. I'm runnin' behind. Gotta ketch up." Vin stated.
"Catch up to what?" Jack asked.
"I bin a sharpshooter for more'n a hundred years. I'm outa practice. An' the boys'll be lookin' fer me sooner or later."
"It's called the Curse of the Seven." Witch Chloe said. "Seven lawmen in New Mexico were cursed in a joined reincarnation curse soon after the civil war. So far, they've been reborn twice and this will be the third time."
"That's right. You know the old saying, `Heaven doesn't want us and Hell's afraid we'll take over'? That pretty much describes us." Vin smirked. "Chris Larabee is our leader. You'll know him when you see him. He's blond, slight, wears all black, and," Vin's smirk grew wider, "He's danger personified. You can' miss `im. Buck Wilmington is a big man, a lone Two-Blood, but we're his pack. He's always born a Two-Blood. The rest of us might change a might, but not that. Sam, Viv, Buck is a ladies' man but he's a real gentleman so no worries. Josiah Sanchez is the eldest, usually. He started out as a Preacher, but he's as much interested in people as he is in God. Don't get into discussion with him over it, no one's got the time. Then there is Ezra Standish. He's a mite shorter than me. Usually about my age too. He's a real southern gentleman, but he started out his lives as a con man and he never lost some of his habits. Never get into a poker game with `im ifin ya wanna win. Nathan Jackson is the only black man among the seven, but that's never mattered to us, even if it mattered to others. He's pack. He's also our healer. He might have even gotten his MD this time around. I hope so `cause we tend to keep him a mite busy. JD Dunne is our youngen. He was just sixteen when we got together in our first life. He's real short, hair's a bit long, Black Irish in colorin'. Has a bad habit a tellin' bad jokes." Vin shook his head in remembrance of some of the worst JD had ever told him. "Can I get outa here Miss? Not that I ain't grateful for what you done, but I really hate hospitals."
After the usual paperwork was taken care of, everyone headed back to the office. "I for one am just grateful this happened when we didn't have any hard cases on our backs." Sam said as she put her stuff down at her desk. "Cause it looks like we've got one now. Vin, do you know if you were adopted or not?"
Jack, Viv and Danny looked at each other in surprise, how could they have forgotten what sent Martin to the hospital in the first place? "Yeah, I was. Why?"
"Because the curse that put you in the hospital was one that is placed on children stolen for illegal adoptions. It makes them compliant and suppresses their memories if they have any. According to the Witch who took it off of you, no one survives more than ten years under the curse. You survived more than that because this reincarnation curse was keeping you alive." Sam explained.
"That's what doesn't make sense to me. You're always giving your old man fits. How does that work with this curse?" Danny wanted to know.
"I ain't even hardly started givin' that man fits, Danny." Vin promised. That was one thing this team didn't know. They knew he and his father didn't get along but thanks to the spell he had usually backed down in the end. That was over. Vin Tanner backed down to no man. Chris was the only man who could order him around and get away with it. Victor Fitzgerald just didn't know that yet. It was gonna be an interesting meeting.
Vin Tanner settled into life at the New York branch of the FBI's Missing Person's Unit quite easily, in spite of the differences in his personality now that he wasn't under the curse. Jack Malone however was sure that the young man was going to give him a heart attack before the week was out. Who knew that Vin was a prankster? Or that he could track better than a dog in the woods? Or that he could shoot the freckles off a flea at a hundred yards? With a PISTOL! Or that he was the most stubborn man it had ever been Jack's misfortune to ever butt heads with? That he had brought a missing five year old home alive when her abductor was about to kill her just as they arrived at where he was holding her went a long way to assuring Jack that Vin was going to be a valuable member of his team in spite of the difficulties he had with authority. Victor Fitzgerald wasn't going to be happy when he found out about the changes in his only son. It was something Jack was hoping he would get to witness.
"Hey Jack! My computer search found Vin's file in the cold cases!" Danny called out to his teammates. He got up from his desk and walked over to the conference table where all of the information on illegal adoptions was being collected. They couldn't stop investigating the new cases of course, but every free moment they had was spent on this particular cold case. "Vincent Michael Tanner kidnapped from the Houston Medical Center right out of the nursery. He was six hours old and the only child of Margaret Tanner and her husband James. James was killed in a car accident when Margaret was six months pregnant. She's a waitress. She still checks in every first Monday of the month to see if anyone has made any progress in her son's kidnapping. Houston MisPer never found out who took Vin." He laid the copy of the file on the table.
"It was one a the nurses." Vin said and gave a description. He couldn't remember very much, just that she was wearing a uniform and was white with blond hair but it was more than anyone else had.
"Vin, do you want me to contact Houston MisPer?" Jack offered. It had to be hard on the man to hear that his mother was still looking for him twenty six years after he had been taken.
"Thanks Jack. I need ta get them ta say I'se me before I kin get my id changed. `Sides, I wanna see my ma as soon as I kin." Vin was surprised to hear that his mother had lived this time around. The last two times had been like the first, she had died when he was five years old and he had gone into care.
"Of course," Jack said. "I'll get right on it. This has got to be the strangest case I have ever worked." He muttered to himself as he walked back to his office. He had never heard of any case where the victim was so young, the case was so old and yet Vin was still able to help out with things like descriptions, the nurse who had taken him, the spell caster who had cursed him, and of the man who had handed him over to his adoptive parents. To say the least Vin wasn't pleased with Victor Fitzgerald.
Coming out of his office Jack noticed Victor's aid walking into the office. `This should be fun.' He thought and got Viv's attention. She looked at bit confused and looked over at where Jack was covertly motioning there was something he wanted her to see. It was Martin's dad's secretary. She grinned and got Sam's attention. By the time that Victor Fitzgerald's aid-de-camp reached the man he thought of as Martin Fitzgerald he had the entire office's attention. No one wanted to miss this.
"Agent Fitzgerald? Agent Fitzgerald?" Vin ignored him. That wasn't his name and he wouldn't answer to it. He'd already said so. Frustrated at Martin's lack of acknowledgement the aid reached out and tried to shake his shoulder. He found himself looking down the barrel of a pistol just before his hand touched Vin. He didn't know what was going on but he did recognize the look on the man's face. He did not want to be touched.
"What?" Vin asked.
"Your father wants to see you."
Vin thought about what he really wanted to say to the man, but there were ladies present so he couldn't cuss. "Nope," he said and went back to work.
After fifteen minutes of trying to get Vin's attention, without touching him, Victor's aid gave up and left the office. Vin's coworkers burst into laughter as he left and Vin turned around to give them a smirk. "The name's Tanner." He said which set them off again.
"Ok people, get back to work. We still have a missing house wife to find, even if she did run off with the cable man." Jack said, shooing his laughing agents back to their desks.
Dr. Josiah Sanchez, PHD in anthropology, looked over the profile he was making of a serial killer who used humans as sacrifices to enhance his own personal power. Why did so many people chose to give themselves to the Dark Arts? It always backfired in the end. Of all people he should know. He was blessed in the form of a curse and cursed in the form of a blessing. He was forever barred from heaven, and each time he was reborn into a similar situation with an abusive father and a little sister to protect. On the one hand he was getting better at protecting his little sisters. On the other hand, he still couldn't stop the abuse from happening. It was heaven and hell here on earth. The only thing that made it worth it was his pack.
"Hey Josiah, how is the FBI's best profiler doing?"
Josiah looked up to see John Henry, a skinny white man who took the jokes about his name with a good sense of humor. He was a good friend of Josiah's, mostly because they were in different departments and neither of them put up with politics. "Saddened by the state of humanity as usual, my friend. I tell you, if I didn't know for a fact that there were so many good people in this world, I would start praying for another flood." He set the file down and grabbed John's forearm. "Join me for lunch?"
"I'd be more than willing; I've even got a payment for you. Didn't you tell me you were looking for a missing member of your Seven?" John asked as he set down his lunch tray. He remembered the shouting match that Josiah had ended with a task force when he told them he was one of the Seven and you pretty little boys had better listen to your elders. After being proved right, both about being one of the legendary (among western law enforcement) Seven and about the profile he had made for the perp they were trying to catch, no one in the FBI had ever tried to ridicule his profiles again.
Josiah nodded. "Vin Tanner, he's usually born here in Texas. He has a fondness for this state. I believe that someone tried to block the curse that ties us together. No one has been able to find him."
"This just came in from the MisPer office in New York. A FBI agent by the name of Martin Fitzgerald collapsed in his office about a week ago. His coworkers rushed him to the ER only to find out he was under a curse. They took the curse off of him and he claimed he was one Vin Tanner. His coworkers searched through the cold case files and came up with an infant abduction case of one Vincent Michael Tanner from here in Houston. I ran the prints and thank the good lord that Houston Medical Center prints both hands and feet of newborns because I got a match. Is this your Vin?" He passed over a picture taken from an employment file.
"Good Lord Almighty! He's got short hair!" Josiah exclaimed. He never would have guessed it, after all the man had threatened to scalp one supervisor who had tried to make him cut it once.
John laughed. "I guess that means it's him?"
Ezra P. Standish hated these cocktail parties his mother dragged him to. If it wasn't for the fact that his mother actually improved her parenting skills each time he would have demanded a new situation when he was reincarnated. After all, it did not affect the way the Seven were gathered together from where ever they were. As it was, she had improved her mothering and he did love her, so he went along with her whenever his conscious allowed him to do so. Such as attending this absolutely mind numbing fundraiser for some charity he had no idea of the name of. The only good thing about it was the food was beyond excellent because AD Fitzgerald was one of the more pompous politicians he had ever had the misfortune to be incarcerated in the same room with. Perhaps if he searched he would find an intellectually stimulating conversation, although he doubted it would be possible among these examples of the dumbing down of America theory. He had thought that his pack members were bad! These people wouldn't know a logical argument if one was to hog tie and spoon feed it to them. Although none of the other members of the Four Corners Pack had an extensive education, not one of them was idiotic enough to make a single statement that these people were eating up as though they were words from the great Socrates himself.
"Mr. Standish, I'm so glad you could make it!" Mrs. Fitzgerald was the perfect society wife. She had perfect manners, a perfect figure, nothing embarrassing in her background, and only enough brains to not make a fool of herself. Ezra mentally tipped his hat to Fitzgerald for his choice in political maneuvering. There was nothing here that could hurt him and a great deal to help him in his rise to the top.
"Not at all, madam. I've been looking forward to meeting you." Ezra kissed her hand as was proper for a true gentleman, although in truth he'd rather be at the Saloon, one of the many businesses the pack owned, drinking and playing poker with his pack.
"Please, Mr. Standish, call me Gloria."
"And I am Ezra." There was no way he was going to make it through to the end of this torture.
"I'm so pleased that a business man of your stature is supporting our cause." She led Ezra over to yet another group of young women by the fireplace in the great room of the large house. Wonderful, he thought, yet another attempt to snare the millionaire. What he wouldn't give to see the looks on their faces if they realized he was a member of a Two Blood pack. If he had realized what would happen, would he have been so hell bent on making investments that would last and be available to the pack when they reincarnated? Of course he would, he sighed to himself while smiling and kissing the hands of the young ladies. The needs of the pack outweighed the minor annoyance of being sought after as marriage material.
As he raised his head from the last young woman's hand his eyes caught on the painting above the mantle. It was a family portrait of the Fitzgeralds and the young man in the painting was Vin! He was sure of it. His missing pack brother was a member of this horrible family! And they had scalped him!
JD Dunne, one time boy sheriff of the western town of Four Corners, was bound and determined to find his lost brother. Vin had recently been freed from whatever had been draining his strength. Josiah, who was their expert in magical matters, thought that Vin had some kind of draining spell put on him on top of the curse to bind the curse and prevent it from affecting him. He buried himself one more time in the searches he had set up, only this time he searched through the databases of hospitals. "Oh good you're feeling better." His mother said as she walked in. Patricia Dunne was proud of her only son and was happy to see him buried in his beloved computer. "A letter came in the mail for you today. It looks like it's from the FBI."
JD made a face and opened the letter. As he had expected it was from a recruiter who wanted him to join the FBI. He would wait and see what Chris wanted them to do this life. Right now he had to find Vin.
Patricia smiled at the face he made and went downstairs. If JD was really ready to dive back into his computer, he would need some food before she went to work as a maid at one of the best hotels in Boston. She worked the day shift these days which was much better than the night shift she had worked since she had been out on her own. She knew that he wouldn't even begin to surface for a few hours so she made up a plate of muffins and a can of Coke which would keep until he realized that they were there. It was lucky for him that he was finally out of school. Although he had finished both high school and college early, he had never been one for sitting in a classroom. She knew why of course. He was a reincarnated soul who remembered his past lives. Having been a sheriff in the Wild West, it was hard to go back to the classroom.
She placed the plate by his computer and after kissing him on the head said, "You'll find him." And then she went off to work.
JD hoped she was right. This was hands down the worst thing that had happened since he had jumped off the stage in Four Corners over 130 years ago. It only took a few hours once he started looking through the hospital records. Vin was working in New York under the name of Martin Fitzgerald. Josiah had been right about the draining spell according to the ER report that had finally made it to the database. Why were these records so far behind? JD asked himself as he called Buck on his cell phone.
"CHRIS! JD found Vin!" Buck burst into his Alpha's living room.
"Calm down, Big Dog, so did Josiah and Ezra. I just got off the phone with them. We're headed to Houston." Chris waited for the explosion. It wasn't long in coming.
"Why in God's name are we headed to Houston for? Vin's in New York!"
"He may be in New York right now Buck but he's headed to Houston. We'll miss him if we try to catch him in New York. Call JD back and tell him to go to Josiah's. Nathan is already there. Ezra is going to just make it in time to catch Vin before he leaves work today and heads for his plane. He didn't want Vin to have to go through flying alone." Buck nodded. Vin's claustrophobia tended to vary depending upon how stressed he was at the time and Buck knew that he had to be very stressed right now. "Pack up your gear. Our flight leaves in five hours."
Anyone who knew the real Ezra Standish, rather than the masks which he presented to the world at large would have realized that he was tense. He had managed to work an invitation out of Mrs. Fitzgerald to accompany her and her husband on a trip to see their son at work. They had told him that their son `Martin' had recently collapsed at work and was apparently too ill to come to them in Washington, although he was stubborn enough that he was still working. They intended to put an end to that and bring him back to their home to recuperate. Ezra knew for a fact that wasn't going to happen. According to Josiah, Vin was scheduled to go to Houston tonight and meet with the Houston Missing Persons Unit of the FBI in the morning. He had checked all of the airlines and had upgraded Vin's ticket so that he would be able to sit in the seat next to his pack brother and so that Vin would have more room. There was no way that he would allow his claustrophobic pack brother to be crammed into the airplane like a sardine if he could help it.
As he stepped into the busy Missing Persons office behind Victor and Gloria Fitzgerald it was all he could do to keep his emotions in check. He couldn't however, keep the enormous grin off of his face. How ironic that Vin was working in Missing Persons when he himself had been missing for twenty six years!
"Martin!" Victor called and walked over to his son's desk.
Ezra was paying attention to the confrontation he knew was coming. There was no way that Vin, if he truly did remember, would ever respond to the name Martin. As Ezra expected Vin did not respond and Victor began to get angry. Ezra took a single look at Vin's back and knew that his pack brother was more than simply angry. There were several members of the Four Corners Pack who had what could only be called truly vicious tempers, but it was the calm ones that you had to look out for. When they let loose even Chris was known to avoid the area, either that or watch with a smile, depending upon the circumstances. This situation was one of the later.
When Victor grabbed Vin's shoulder to spin him around in his chair, Vin was ready for him. Victor ended up on the floor with Vin's gun in his face. Ezra was moving before Victor hit the floor. He alone of all the people here understood that Vin was in a killing rage. He had underestimated how angry Vin was with Victor. There was obviously some information he was missing. He picked the pocket of the agent standing closest to him and dangling the handcuffs in Vin's face, he placed his hand on the back of his pack brother's neck and began playing with the short hair there. "Do be so good as to finish arresting him or whatever it is you plan to do with the miscreant Mr. Tanner, we do have a plane to catch. Mr. Larabee will be justifiably upset with us if we are late." It was a subtle reminder of what had happened the last time Vin had killed a man and ended up in jail over the incident. Chris had not been pleased, no matter how justified the killing.
"Thanks Ez," Vin rolled Victor over on his back and handcuffed him. Ezra's hand never stopped playing with his hair throughout the process.
"How many times must I tell you ruffians that the name is Ezra? Two syllables if you please Mr. Tanner. I am sure that even you can manage that much. While I do appreciate the fact that you prefer silence to inane chatter a single syllable more isn't too much to ask."
Vin dragged Victor to his feet and shoved him at Sam. "He paid money to the man who cursed me. I gotta plane to catch." He turned to Ezra who finally dropped his hand and was swept up in a bear hug by the slightly taller man. "Missed ya, Ez," he said.
"And I missed you as well. The others have been terribly worried about you. I've taken the liberty of upgrading your ticket to first class." Ezra continued to chatter at Vin as he shut down his computer and got ready to leave the office. It didn't take long and soon they were out the door, followed by Jack and Danny who were going with them to Houston.
"Mr. Fitzgerald," Sam began as she led Victor to an interview room.
"Assistant Director Fitzgerald to you, Agent Spade," Victor growled.
"Do you think I care?" Sam glared right in his face. "A kidnapping victim places you at the scene of his delivery from his kidnappers and stated that you paid money to the man who placed a death curse on him. That is an automatic sentence of life without possibility of parole if you didn't know about the death curse, or an automatic death sentence if a jury finds you guilty of hiring it done. Sit here while I get what I need to take your statement and I'll have your wife call your lawyer." She left him in the chair.
Sam found Mrs. Fitzgerald in one of the nicer `witness' rooms with Viv. "Mrs. Fitzgerald, we discovered that your son was kidnapped and illegally adopted. I'm afraid that this is a very serious case because it does involve someone placing a death curse on Vin Tanner before he came to live with you as your son. Because Vin remembers seeing your husband pay the man who cursed him we have to consider him an accessory to attempted murder by magic. That carries an automatic life in prison sentence. You need to call his lawyer right now." Viv tried her best to be gentle with the woman. As far as they knew she wasn't involved with anything more than wanting another child.
"But how could Martin remember anything of his adoption? He was less than a week old when Victor brought him home. I know that Victor paid the lawyer on the day he brought Martin home, but he wouldn't pay for a death curse on his own son," Gloria protested.
"Vin is under a reincarnation curse. He remembers basically everything from the day he is born until the day he dies and continues to remember into the next life," Viv explained. "It was that curse that kept him alive for so long. He was able to draw strength from the others who are connected to him through the same curse. If your husband didn't know about either the kidnapping, that the adoption was illegal or about the death curse he'll get off with a much lighter sentence."
"I guess I'd better call a lawyer then," Gloria said in a daze.
Jack and Danny were almost happy to be stuck back in coach while Vin and Ezra were in first class. At least they could talk without being overheard. "So this Ezra Standish, a multi millionaire, is one of the men who are under the same reincarnation curse Vin is?" Danny asked, trying to understand the strange scene back at the office.
"It's more than that. Do you remember what he said at the hospital? One of them is a Two Blood. He said that they had formed a pack around him. I didn't believe him, but from the way those two behaved, Vin was telling the truth."
"What do you mean?" Danny asked.
"You don't know much about Two Bloods, do you?" Jack asked with a smirk.
"Only the standard stuff, they are shape shifters who can change from wolf to man or vice versa whenever they want. It isn't a curse or a spell; it is part of their genetic makeup. Most of them consider themselves to be more wolf than human. They live in packs that are usually extended families. Packs are dictatorships with leadership and status being determined by personal combat." Danny recited, rather like the lecturer he had heard on the subject at Quantico.
"That's all true. What is also true is that they can breed with humans and so occasionally a human will be adopted into a pack. There are all sorts of rules and stuff, but it basically boils down to the fact that after a while other than the change, you can't tell the difference between a Two Blood pack member and a One Blood pack member. They completely become part of the pack. There is no separation. That is what was going on at the office. Mr. Standish was acting exactly like a One Blood pack member greeting another member of his pack. The way he was playing with Vin's hair? That was how they greet other members of their pack that are in wolf form, by scratching around the ears and the scruff of their necks."
"Just like you would a dog," Danny said.
"Yes, but don't ever make that comparison. It is a deadly insult. Another thing is that pack leaders are literally alpha males. Think of them as the meanest, deadliest person you will ever come across and the loyalty of their pack is to them and no one else. So Vin will be more loyal to his pack leader and to his pack as a whole than he will to anyone or anything else. I think that is why he was so angry at his adopted father. Fitzgerald took him away from his pack. People have been killed for less." Jack finished solemnly.
"And the Packs have gotten away with it," Danny added. He knew that much about how the law dealt with pupnappings. If you were stupid enough to kidnap a Two Blood pup, you got what you deserved.
The plane touched down in Houston many hours later. Vin was glad that Ez had bumped him up to first class. It had made the flight bearable. There had been few people in first class so they were able to get off the plane quickly which was another plus in Vin's book. They both waited for Jack and Danny by the large windows. While Vin was ready to get on with getting to a hotel and the meeting that was waiting for him the next morning, if Ezra had already known where he was, the others couldn't be far behind. So it was with anticipation that he scanned the crowds beyond the security
He was rewarded by the sight of Josiah and Nathan. With Jack and Danny following, Vin and Ezra went straight for their pack brothers. Jack, Danny and Ezra held back while Vin was greeted by bear hugs that had him off the floor and nuzzling under his chin.
Jack leaned over and asked Ezra quietly, "Is Vin highly placed in your pack? I wouldn't have thought he'd rank higher than those two."
Ezra laughed quietly. "Do not let their size fool you sir. While all three of my pack brothers here have terrible tempers it tends to take a great deal to provoke them. Nathan is a submissive while Josiah is the least of the dominants." Ezra spared a glance at Danny who was looking alarmed. "I'm not referring to sexual preferences Agent. I am speaking of the ranking within the pack. Dominants are those who are prone to take a leadership role within the pack while submissives are those who prefer to follow. Vin takes turns with Buck as the second in command of our pack. They have had plenty of time to work that out between the two of them. Rank is something that doesn't matter to Josiah, but he won't allow his voice to be silenced either. Nathan on the other hand is not a leader, he is a healer. The only time his temper is truly provoked is when someone is hurt or when he is defending a member of the pack." He flashed a grin at Danny as he relaxed. "That usually happens at the same time and ends up with the miscreant who harmed a member of our little pack receiving a one way ticket to hell courtesy of one of Nathan's knives."
"What about you, if you don't mind my asking?" Danny asked.
"Oh, I am no leader. I am more than content to follow rather than fight one of those louts for control." The look on Ezra's face as he watched `those louts' as he put it was enough for both Jack and Danny to understand that he loved his pack dearly and that was the true reason he followed where his pack brothers led. Then he stepped up for his own greeting.
On the road in the full sized van that Josiah was driving Josiah brought Vin up to date on the happenings of the pack. "Chris and Buck have been in Washington State while JD has been in Boston. Nathan and I have both been here. We've all been searching for you for years. JD's plane won't get here until tomorrow morning. Chris and Buck have been with the Navy up until recently. They were both discharged about a year ago when Sarah died in childbirth during a hostage situation. She bled to death because the hostage takers wouldn't let anyone come in and help her. Adam survived though. Both of them have been working with the Seattle bomb squad. Buck met Inez last night and he's gearing up for chasing her for all he's worth. He loves her so much there is no way he'll stop until she says yes again. JD has been pouring his interests into computers these days and his mother is still alive but I doubt she will be for much longer. You already know about Ezra and Maude. Rain is a pediatric nurse down at Houston Medical Center, ironically enough from what I've read in the file John Henry showed me. Hannah is doing better this time around, she has MPD."
"Adam lived this time?!" Vin broke out a howl of joy and the others joined in as well. Jack and Danny both flinched from the echoes of the noise in the close quarters of the van. Never before had either Sarah or Adam Larabee survived for more than a few years after Chris and Sarah had married. They also always died together. It was only the fact that they kept meeting and the hope that the pack was shown as each time they were reborn and their lives improved, even if it was only slightly, that helped Chris to survive each time they died. Chris had come to the conclusion that Sarah wouldn't keep returning to his life if she wasn't determined that one of these lifetimes she would have a long, full life with him and as she had to know, at least as a spirit, what had happened, then there was nothing he could, or should, do to stop her.
"I thought it was only the seven of you that were connected with the curse?" Danny asked confused.
"It may only be the Seven that are bound by magic son, but the Good Lord has always been a Lord of choice. He has granted the choice of many of those who love us to return to us time and time again." Josiah said with gratitude. "Sarah and Adam are our Alpha's wife and son. Inez is or at this time rather, was Buck's mate. JD has his mother as I said before. Maude is Ezra's mother. Rain is Nathan's wife and Hannah is my sister. There are a few others who hang around, but whether or not we'll get to see them in this life is their choice, not ours." It was with this startling revelation that Josiah dropped off Jack and Danny at their hotel.
Jack and Danny put their suitcases on their respective hotel beds and crashed, Danny on his bed and Jack in the chair by the door. "So how do you know so much about Two Blood packs?" Danny asked. Between work, Mr. Fitzgerald's appearance and arrest at the office, the flight and then their encounter with yet more members of Vin's pack it had been a very long day.
"I worked an accidental pupnapping a few years ago. A twenty year old black male robbed a convenience store and then when his getaway car wouldn't start he carjacked a pack member's car in the parking lot of the grocery store across the street. She ended up with two bullets in her and he took off with the car, and her two pups in the backseat. Needless to say he got hurt in the process of jacking the car and the pack finished him off when we caught up with him and the pups. I was assigned to stay with the pack in the hospital while the rest of the pack helped track down the carjacker." Jack stretched as best as he could in the chair. "I'm too beat to go out. Do you want to order in some room service?"
"Sounds good to me," Danny said.
"I spent a lot of time in that hospital room listening to the oldest member of the pack tell the pups bed time stories and history from the Two Blood's point of view. I learned a lot about them by keeping quiet and just listening. It was fascinating stuff." Jack said as he picked up the room service menu. He quickly placed an order for the both of them since he knew Danny's favorites from stake outs and similar business trips.
"Did you ever see one of them change? I've always wondered about that. I mean is it like the werewolf transformations they show in the movies or is it different?"
Jack smirked; it was just like Danny to ask about that. "It isn't anything like the movies. For one thing, they tend to strip before they change from human to wolf. They also tend to wear the least amount of clothing they can get away with so they can make the change faster." He settled back in his chair and tilted his head back and a little to the side, remembering. "There is this charge to the air when they're about to change almost like there's about to be a lightening strike. One minute their human and the next they're a wolf. There isn't any of that moaning or groaning or weird sound effects like they're being ripped apart or something," Jack said chuckling. Those werewolf movies really hammed it up in his opinion. He didn't think real werewolves or others who were changed by magic or curse went through that bad a transformation either. "What really surprised me was how honest they were with the other pups in the pack. There were six pups in all, one set of triplets and one single child besides the two who were missing. They spent almost the entire time on the hospital bed and nothing was held back from them. Not how hurt and sick the mother of the missing pups was, what was going to happen to the man who had shot her and taken the pups, nothing. They didn't make any effort at all to hide anything of what was going on from those kids. I did ask about it after the kids had fallen asleep. The elder storyteller told me that unlike we one bloods, telling the kids a lie wasn't a possibility because not only could the kids smell how hurt their aunt was, they would be able to smell what was done to the carjacker. There are very few outright lies among a Two Blood pack, there are secrets, but for the most part they are either of the Christmas present or personal nature type."
"How personal can personal be if they could smell that the guy got turned into hamburger for shooting a pack member and pupnapping their cousins?" Danny wanted to know.
"I don't think they could lie about sex or something like that, but say if someone was upset about something and just didn't want to talk about it they'd give that person their privacy and not ask." Jack said.
Vin couldn't wait to get to Josiah's place. The pack had been apart for too long and this time he would get to see and help raise Adam. He loved kids and it was only the years of practice he had as a sharpshooter and sniper that allowed him to sit quietly and wait. Not that it mattered; his brothers could see that he was about ready to climb the sides of the van. It wasn't often that their pack included children. Although there wasn't one member of the pack that wouldn't and in the past hadn't made a good father, it was hard to find a wife who would accept becoming part of a Two Blood pack. Ezra in particular had become quite sarcastic over the matter. There just weren't that many females who could accept the seven, much less the pack.
Vin's thoughts wandered to his mother and he wondered where she fell in the spectrum of the women he had known over the last almost 150 years. Would she be like Miss Nettie, his mother of the heart? Or would she be like Grace, the girl he had met in his last life who had literally run screaming from the very idea of being surrounded by a Two Blood pack? As exciting as the thought of finally meeting his mother again was, he had no real idea of how she would react. It was enough to make him think he'd sat himself on an ant hill the way his thoughts had him squirming. He knew he wouldn't settle until he had seen Chris again. Chris would make everything alright. For a pack it wasn't a childish thought and for their pack it was even less so. No matter how his meeting with his mother went in the morning his Alpha would be there to soften the blow or to help him celebrate. The rest of his pack would be there as well, even little JD, but right now he just needed to see Chris. Without an Alpha a pack was directionless and uncontrollable, theirs more than most. Stubborn, hard headed, temperamental, childish, Vin couldn't remember all of the names he and his brothers had been called over the years but he knew that without Chris they would have been in a world of hurt because Chris was the only one who could ride herd on them. Chris wasn't a cowboy, he was a packboy. Vin snorted at the thought and waved off the looks he knew were aimed in his direction. He'd share later.
Josiah pulled up in front of the old Victorian house that he had bought years ago and everyone piled out of the van. Vin started to walk up to the porch only to be bowled over by an enormous timber wolf. "Buck! Get off you overgrown tom cat!" Vin yelled as he hit the ground. Buck responded by licking Vin's face in a demonstration of lupine excitement. Vin laughed as he tried desperately to avoid Buck's long tongue and bury his hands in Buck's fur to give him a good scratching at the same time.
Chris Larabee stepped out onto the porch and watched his pack gather around their lost brother. It was finally time. Vin was back and the pack was almost complete.
Buck finally let Vin up and they walked up the steps to the porch where Chris waited. Anyone else would have been terrified of the slim man dressed all in black just from the scowl on his face. Vin on the other hand had never been scared of Chris. Worried that Chris just might actually shoot him once in a while, but never scared. Buck walked up and leaned against Chris accepting his absentminded petting while Chris and Vin stared at each other. This silent conversation was lasting longer than most, but then they had been apart for longer than usual as well.
Ezra, Josiah, and Nathan sighed in amused contentment. It just hadn't been the same without Chris and Vin talking to each other without speaking. The two of them could hold an entire conversation with a single look. Chris however wasn't talking, he was just staring. The look was just shouting `OH MY GOD WHAT DID YOU DO TO YOUR HAIR?' Vin just grinned back. It was almost worth it to see the shocked scowl on Chris' face. He stepped up onto the porch and showed Chris his neck, submitting to his Alpha. Chris came out of his shock long enough to give him the customary nip, and then dragged him into a bear hug. "Good to see you Cowboy."
"Good to see you too, Packboy," Vin grinned.
"Did he just compare us to cows?" Josiah asked Nathan. Nathan didn't even bother to answer. He was already tackling the sharpshooter and going for his ticklish spots. It wasn't any time at all before the rest of the pack joined in.
Mrs. Nettie Wells, a retired school teacher who now, at least officially, worked as Adam's nanny came out onto the porch with the one year old in her arms. "They're scalawags the lot of them, aren't they Adam. And I bet you just can't wait to join in." All five of the men and one wolf were wrestling, tickling and nipping at each other on the front lawn. When her granddaughter Casey had told her about Chris and Buck and the situation they were in with little Adam's birth, she had felt compelled to help out in some way. After all, the two men had saved her granddaughter's life in the same terrible tragedy that had cost Chris his wife. She had invited herself in to their home and started looking after the three of them.
Later, when she had taken a good look at the pictures the men had on the walls she understood her need to help these good hearted scoundrels. She had seen herself in the oldest pictures, along with Casey. It hadn't taken a test performed by a Witch at a local hospital to convince her, (although her daughter, Casey's mother had insisted on it,) that she was a soul who had been a part of their lives before and most likely would be again. Talking with Buck had confirmed it. It seemed that Casey had been her niece more than 130 years ago when they had all met for the first time and the Four Corners pack had been born. She and Casey had actually been a part of that pack. According to Josiah, they had chosen to come back and be a part of the pack again, although no member of the pack would ever try to change their minds if they chose not to be a part of their lives in this lifetime. Nettie Wells wasn't the sort of person to back off from a challenge though and that was exactly what that was, a challenge. "All right you lot! I've got supper on the table and you'd better be sitting down and have clean hands and faces by the time I get Adam settled into his high chair."
"Yes Miz Nettie," they all chorused before following her into the house.
Jack pulled up to the big Victorian house in his rented sedan and Danny checked the address that Nathan had given him last night. "That's the place. Josiah's van is gone so he must be picking up JD Dunne at the airport."
Jack silently added up pack members and came up two short. "That means either Chris Larabee and Buck Wilmington are in the house or are on their way here. Vin's pack is almost complete."
"I'm thinking that Larabee and Wilmington are probably here in town because no one said anything to Vin about their arrival time but why do you think they're here?" Danny asked.
"Packs are extended families, remember? They all live together in a single house. Of course they tend to go for the older and larger houses because of it," Jack said and waved at the house in front of them as an example. Danny nodded in understanding. It wasn't considered unusual for families in his own culture to have extended families living in the same house.
Jack knocked on the front door and was surprised when a large man with a mustache opened it. It was obvious to him that this was Buck Wilmington because his eyes were that of a Two Blood, slightly glowing when the light above the door reflected in them. "I'm Jack Malone, Vin's boss."
"Come on in! You must be Danny." Buck shook hands with both agents. "You're just in time for coffee," he said as he guided them into the large kitchen/dining room.
Both men stopped dead in their tracks. "Who made it?!" they asked with alarm.
"Don't worry none, Miz Nettie made the coffee." Buck laughed.
Chris grinned from where he was feeding Adam his breakfast. "Sounds like someone's had a run in with your coffee Cowboy."
"Ain't nothing wrong with ma coffee." Vin huffed while the others laughed at him.
"Tanner, it melted a spoon last week." Jack said as he sat down at the table.
Vin smirked, "It was just right."
Ezra groaned, "Vin I swear I still, after 130 odd years, do not know why you insist on turning a civilized drink into acid that is fit for neither man nor beast to drink!" Vin and Ezra were ignored as they once more began their almost daily argument over what constituted a good cup of coffee.
Chris looked over the two agents who had accompanied Vin back to Houston. The look was enough to freeze Danny before he could sit down. Jack, however, was expecting it. This man had to be Chris Larabee, the male Alpha of the pack. There was an aura of barely controlled violence about him, as though even while he relaxed with his pack he was on guard and would tear anyone apart that didn't pass his inspection. The elderly lady setting food on the table had to be the Alpha female from the way the men reacted to her. It only took one look to see that this woman was as tough as rawhide.
"Agent Malone, Agent Taylor, welcome to the Four Corners Pack. I'm Chris Larabee." Chris knew how he seemed to people who had never encountered an Alpha before and didn't want to scare Vin's friends too badly right off the bat. It was a good thing they had come for breakfast or coffee at least. No one had pissed him off yet this morning, although he was sure he was going to lose his temper sooner or later. He hated dealing with bureaucrats and that was what was on the agenda for the day.
Vin was nervous. Not only was he going to be meeting with the MisPer agents this morning, they had also arranged for him to meet his mother. He was so glad to have his pack around him! When Josiah brought JD in from the airport his pack was finally complete.
Well, almost, but Buck had just started to court Inez and Nathan still had to bring Rain back from her shift at the hospital and Casey wasn't sure she would be joining the pack in this life time. Vin didn't blame her for being skittish. He knew it was hard on those who didn't remember what he and the Seven did. She couldn't know how well she'd fit in or the fact that she was already loved by all of them as a sister, except for JD who was still so in love with her that he practically worshiped the ground she walked on.
JD had been so vocal and excited when he arrived that he reminded Vin of the sixteen year old greenhorn he had once been. Vin had learned everything that had been going on from their search for him to his meeting Casey at MIT. He had been upfront with her about who he was and that he'd been sent to check up on her. He'd told Vin that he would have gone anyway, but without permission from Miz Nettie he wouldn't have approached her.
Vin shook his head. He was woolgathering, shying away from thinking about the meeting he was about to walk into. Josiah opened the door to the FBI office and led the way to the MisPer office. Chris was right behind him and the rest of the seven followed. Jack and Danny followed the large group, watching with interest as the sheer presence of the men had people intimidated into clearing the hallway ahead of them. It was helped by the fact that the men following Josiah were walking in an arrowhead formation with Larabee at the tip.
Danny was struck by the way Vin just blended in with the others. There was no hesitation, no gaps, nothing to indicate that less than 48 hours before these men hadn't seen each other in over thirty years, perhaps even longer than that although Vin wasn't willing to talk about his last life that much. It was like watching a pistol slide into a custom made holster. You couldn't even tell if the man was nervous or not. He wasn't sure if he was irritated or impressed with his friend's composure. A little bit of both, he decided as he watched from the background while Josiah did the introductions.
"John Henry, head of Houston's Missing Persons Unit, these are the Seven. Chris Larabee, Buck Wilmington, Vin Tanner, Ezra Standish, Nathan Jackson and JD Dunne." Vin wasn't paying any attention to the introductions, all of his attention was on the honey blond woman sitting in the interview room on the other side of the office. Knowing that Chris would stop anyone from going after him and that Jack and Josiah would take care of the boss here, he went straight to the room and went in.
Margaret Tanner looked up as the door opened and in walked a mirror image of her dead husband James. "Vincent?" she asked even though it could be no one else. She had to reach up to grab him and pull him close but that too was a reminder that this was her husband's son. "Oh Lord, I've missed you so much!" she sobbed.
"I missed ya too, Ma. Mor'n you c'n ever know." Vin gasped out. "Hope I ain't a disappointment ta ya."
"No matter what, ya'll never be a disappointment to me!" Margaret declared firmly. "Now let's go out and ya can introduce me to the people ya came in with."
"Ya'd best know the worst first," Vin was firm. He needed to know how she was going to react. This was more important than he could explain, even to the others. This wasn't just his mother of this life. If she had been just that, like Josiah's parent's changed each life, then he could have accepted the Fitzgerald's more easily. This was the same woman who had who had born him in his first life and every life there after. "I'm Gamma in a Two Blood pack, Ma. Those men out there are most of my pack. The other two are my boss and partner from New York. We're Four Corners Pack, the same pack that was placed under the Curse of the Seven."
"You're one of the Seven?" Margaret exclaimed. "James loved that story! He used to wish he could run into one of you. He thought it would be wonderful to work on a case with all of you. You may not know this but he was a patrol officer for the Houston Police Department before his death. He was hoping to make it to Detective. He told me all about the Curse. I think it's wonderful." She hugged her grown son once again, not being able to get enough of holding him.
The Pack looked on from the bullpen, then as one they turned to look at Chris. He would be the one to decide, although the outcome was pretty much given. He grinned at them, which was enough to make the more timid agents in the office find something urgent to do elsewhere. "She's Pack," he stated more than made it a declaration. There had been no doubt she would be welcomed if she accepted Vin. The hug she had given him the second time and the wary look on the tracker's face had told them the story of what was happening in the room. They were more than happy for their pack brother, he had mourned his mother hard for many years.
Jack closed his cell phone as Vin and Margaret came back into the bullpen. "I've got some good news. Fitzgerald has been interviewed under a truth spell by the Interrogation Witch and he knew nothing about the kidnapping, the illegal adoption or the death curse. In fact, he broke down crying when the situation was explained to him. He told Vivian and the Witch everything he could about the adoption agency he went to and Sam found it. It is still in business and offering discrete adoptions."
"We want in on the take down." Larabee wasn't giving Malone a choice and Malone knew it. The law was clear on the matter anyway; any sort of violent crime against a member of any Two Blood Pack was to be dealt with by turning the offending criminal over to the pack for justice. Any request made by the Alpha of the pack was to be given without question, as long as it dealt with the case.
"Of course," Jack said without hesitation.
"So Vin, you gonna forgive the old man now?" Danny asked with a smile. He had loved seeing Vin take down Fitzgerald before they left New York. The way that man tried to run Vin's life went beyond annoying.
Vin thought about it. The Witches on interrogation duty at their office were more than good at it. There was no way Victor could have lied while they had a truth spell on him. That meant that just like Josiah's parents, all he had wanted was a son. He couldn't hate the man for that. "Man's gotta learn ta cut them apron strings or I'm gonna use one a Nate's knives on `im."
"Now Brother Vin, don't forget that forgiveness is a virtue," Josiah rumbled with a smile. Jack and Danny smiled as well as Dr. Nathan Jackson handed Vin an extremely well cared for and sharp throwing knife. Neither one of them could see where he had retrieved the knife from, but as knives were common personal objects among pack members, they weren't surprised that he had one.
"Don't need it jes' yet Nate, thanks," Vin said, basking in the warmth of his pack.
"Well then, how about these?" Nathan asked and opened a manila envelope onto the conference table in front of them. It contained a group of files from the hospital where he and Rain worked. "These are the files for Nurses that were working at the hospital when you were taken."
With a growl Vin pounced on the files and quickly sorted through them. It only took him five minutes of searching to find the one he was looking for. "That's her; she's the one who took me."
"She still works at the hospital. I'll call Rain," Nathan said and pulled out his cell phone as he stood up.
Ezra pulled the file to him and read it. He cursed, for once forgetting to act like a gentleman in front of the ladies, "She's still working in the nursery!"
As one the Pack poured out of the bullpen and from there out of the building. Jack was the only one who wasn't surprised by their actions or the smoothness of their movements. "They're on the hunt," he explained. "Danny, stay with Mrs. Tanner."
"I ain't stayin'!" Margaret glared at Danny and ran after the pack and Jack. John Henry and Danny looked at each other, shrugged and ran after Margaret. They didn't want to be left out either.
At the Houston Medical Center they all found Rain guarding a nurse stuffed into a corner. Rain had a newborn in her arms and her glare was more than enough to keep the older woman from moving. "Chris, I caught her trying to take this baby out of the nursery." Buck came and took the baby from her and turned his back on the nurse. He wasn't capable of hurting a woman, not when she wasn't actively hurting someone he loved. He took the baby back to James Henry while Chris and Vin confronted the nurse.
"Ya ain't gonna do ta that baby what ya gone an done ta me," Vin growled. He grabbed her by one arm and Chris grabbed her by the other.
"You've been kidnapping babies. One of them belonged to the Four Corners Pack. We just got him back and you won't be allowed to ever do it again," Chris snarled as he dragged her out of the corner Rain had trapped her in.
"I don't know what you're talking about!" the nurse protested.
Rain went to the FBI Agent who was holding the newborn. "You see the baby's wrists? There should be a security bracelet on both wrists. She removed them and was walking towards that door," Rain pointed at the door at the end of the hallway. "That door leads out of the maternity ward and from there it is easy to leave the hospital."
"Will you allow Houston MisPer to take her into custody?" John asked Larabee.
"No. This is Malone's case, he gets her first. After that if she's still alive and you want her, you can have her then." Chris wasn't letting go of his rights as Alpha of the victim's pack. He didn't want to have this case torn apart with a pissing contest between Houston and New York. He was going to have enough troubles when he had to face the local pack in New York when he settled his pack there. "You work that out with him."
Jack nodded and then he and Danny took the nurse out of the hospital, with John following after returning the baby to Rain. Vin looked down at the sleeping baby tenderly. "Thank ya Rain fer ketchin her in the act. It'll help later on when the trial comes around."
"You must be Vin. Welcome home brother." Rain almost wasn't sure this was Vin Tanner, he looked somewhat different with short hair.
"Thank ya ag'in," Vin blushed. He could tell that she meant it, even if she wasn't quite sure it was him. He sighed silently in mourning over his hair. While it wasn't something that he had been able to fight Victor over, it was still something he missed. The very first time he had looked in a mirror after the death curse had been broken he had decided that he was allergic to scissors.
Rain just smiled, "I have to get the baby back to the nursery and find out which parent she belongs too. I'll fill out a report when I've figured that all out, Chris."
Chris nodded, "Let's go boys. We've got a nurse to `talk' to." If the nurse in question had been able to see the Seven at that point in time she would have sung like a canary on the spot. Margaret was glad that these men were on her son's side.
JD, Nathan, Vin and Danny were tracking down all of the cases of kidnapped or missing children taken from hospitals across the country. It was Danny who had remarked that hospitals were one of the very few places where an infant or small child under the age of two was left alone with strangers unattended by their parents. It also had the advantage of keeping some of the pack away from the nurse.
It didn't keep the scariest ones away from her though. Danny knew that was impossible. Chris Larabee might be a One Blood, totally genetically human, but there was no doubt he was all Alpha. In some ways Larabee seemed to him to be more of a wolf than Buck Wilmington, the Seven's Two Blood. Between those two and Josiah Sanchez, Danny did not envy that woman one bit.
Vin knew his teammate well enough to know what Danny was thinking, not that Danny would ever really feel sorry for a woman who kidnapped babies. No, Danny just didn't want to be the one facing Chris and the others when they were worked up. He could understand that, it was one of the reasons he'd made sure to take all of Chris' weapons. Buck and Josiah would never shoot or knife a woman, and Ezra was more likely to use words. It was Chris who actually had shot people when he was in a temper and he was in a temper now.
Not that he blamed Chris or any of them for that of course. He was worked up himself. He was just glad that Nathan was here with him instead of being in the interrogation room with the nurse. That spell that was used on the children was worse than being sold into slavery and Vin hated Nathan being reminded of that time. It was bad enough that Nathan had been a slave once.
It had been worse than slavery because even as a slave Nathan's thoughts had been his own and eventually he had made his escape. That hadn't been the case for Vin. For Vin, his thoughts had been what was enslaved. Sure he had fought against his magical chains, but he hadn't even known what he was fighting against. He'd thought at the time that he was just fighting his father's heavy handed attempts to run his life, only to find out that everything he'd known about himself was a lie. Someone was going to pay for that.
Jack Malone and John Henry sat across from Nurse Amanda Jenkins and listened to her pour out her story. They hadn't had to say much of anything. Not only had she been caught red handed by Nurse Rain Jackson, but Chris Larabee, Buck Wilmington, Josiah Sanchez and Ezra Standish were all standing behind them. They weren't doing anything, just standing there but that was enough. Jack had heard the expression `if looks could kill' before, but he had never seen such an example as the looks on these men's faces.
"I never took children from good families, I swear! I just took them from the street kids who shouldn't have been having kids in the first place! I never would take a child from a pack! I swear! I was just giving them to a better family!"
Her protests fell on deaf ears as far as the FBI agents were concerned. To the other four men in the room, all they did was condemn her more. Who was she to say that a mother didn't deserve her child? Who was she to say that a woman was or wasn't a good mother, especially a first time parent? Vin's mother had been condemned to 26 years of sorrow and grief because she had not only just lost her husband and the love of her life, she'd also had their only child stolen from her before he was even a day old. And all because this woman did think she `deserved' to have a child. The fact that she was a poor waitress wasn't any of Jenkins' business.
"How did you know which child to kidnap? Who gave you your instructions? Who did you give the children to and where and how did you meet to hand them over?" Jack's questions were quietly asked but he was immovable. She would answer them or he would hand her over to the pack. She knew that without being told. There was no way Jack was going to buy anything she was trying to sell.
Even with the silent threat of the pack members in the background, well mostly silent, there was a few times when one or more had to settle their brother down, it took some time for the answers to be dragged out of the woman.
It turned out that she was a gambler and was hopelessly in debt. She had been contacted by a lawyer by the name of David Evens who had arraigned for her to have her debts wiped out if she would shop for a specific type of child for him. She had done so four times over the last 26 years. This last child was the fifth.
David Evens was the name of one of the men who worked at the adoption agency. Jack forwarded that information to Viv and then asked Larabee what he wanted to happen to Miss Jenkins. As Alpha, it would be he who made the decision.
"Make sure she doesn't have any more information. Then we'll hang her," was Larabee's judgement.
Jack Malone was the only Missing Persons Agent to attend the execution. Vin didn't count because he was counted as both a Pack member and a victim. It wasn't very elaborate, just a tall tree and a short length of rope. The entire pack was there to watch, with Buck in wolf form and Jack wearing his FBI hat and jacket to make sure that no one called the cops. He had informed the local authorities what was happening, but this was an extra precaution.
Personally, Jack was impressed with the operation. It took some skill to do a hanging properly so that a person's neck was broken. If it wasn't done properly the person being hung often strangled to death.
As was usual with this sort of thing, the set up took longer than the actual event. Once Amanda Jenkins' head was placed into the noose it was all over in a matter of seconds. There was no lingering, no strangulation, just a quick jerk of the rope when she came to the end. Jack had never attended a hanging before and was surprised that he could actually hear her neck bones snap in the quiet.
Nathan Jackson reached up to check her pulse; called the time of death and filled out the paperwork he had waiting. He then waved the coroner's people over and gave them the paperwork before joining the rest of the pack in leaving. The pack's interest in her was over; she could stay in that tree and rot for all they cared. The only reason that Nathan was against that was because of the public health risk that would be.
Back in New York, Vivian had gone to a judge to get `hack' warrants. These warrants were only given in death by magic cases and the case had to have some serious weight behind it before it could even be considered. With the confession, they had that. The warrants would allow them to hack into the computer files, bug the offices of the adoption agency, and to bug the phone lines of everyone named in the warrant. The reason that these warrants were so seldom given is because they didn't have to be served. They only had to be displayed in the computer room where the hacking was taking place and the office where the investigation was being held.
For law enforcement these warrants really straddled the line. Any information collected that was not strictly covered by the warrant had to be thrown out. If it wasn't, even if it was just the slightest bit off, then the officers who had been given the warrant was guaranteed to never get one again and the entire case was thrown out. As this was only given out in death by magic cases, which were hard to prosecute anyway, everyone was adhering closely to the rules.
Jack knew this and was keeping close tabs on Danny and the pack members. He was thankful that Larabee was backing him up and making sure that everything was kept between the lines. The only information that Danny didn't get himself was given to him by Dr. Jackson. As a physician, he could legally access the computers of any hospital in the country. He hadn't told Danny anything more than which hospitals to look at and what years were of interest. He couldn't say anything more because of doctor/patient privilege.
It was enough, however, to get the ball rolling. While Danny called Sam and gave her the list to look at, Jack packed them up and got them checked out. They would be returning to New York tonight. The legal process to get Vin's name changed back was underway and Mrs. Tanner had already quit her job at a local restaurant in order to move to New York to be near her son. Whatever arrangements the pack had made Jack wasn't sure about, but he couldn't ask until the case was closed. The only thing that he could ask Vin was if he was staying in Missing Persons.
"Probably not Jack. Ya see, Chris don't like it when we go gallivantin' off on `im. He likes to keep us close. We may all go fed this time around tho'. Depends on how they treat us," with an amused and gleeful expression on his face, one that Jack had learned to be wary of, Vin nodded and walked back to where his pack was waiting for the plane.
"I'd better warn the AD," Jack muttered.
"You'd also better warn him that if we don't get them, we'll be the laughing stock of the law enforcement world. Not only do we have two of them already FBI right now, these guys aren't still called the Magnificent Seven for nothing," Danny warned. "I've been looking into their history. These guys are incredible, and I'm not just talking about the reincarnation stuff.
"The first mention I can find anywhere is in 1870 when a circuit court judge named Orrin Travis hires them to be the law in a small town named Four Corners, New Mexico. They kept that town's bank so safe that until their deaths, it was never successfully robbed. That was an enormous achievement back then. Banks were robbed frequently.
"After they died the first time they were reborn and joined the Texas Rangers. Now only three of them actually joined the Rangers because the other four weren't old enough. In 1913 the Seven put a huge gambling and extortion ring out of business. It was the first time any of them had mentioned that they were under a curse and there was an investigation into it. They were of course proved right and less than a year later they were all dead again. They were killed in retaliation for shutting down the ring.
"The next time they showed up was in 1934 to 1939. Four of the Seven join the US Marshals. They all went into the service during WWII as a pack after Two Bloods were discovered. Vin, Nathan and Josiah were all killed in action. The survivors rejoined the US Marshals until they died in action. And that is what brings us to now.
"Jack these men are so good at what they do that they are literally legends. There wasn't a single member of the FBI office in Houston that didn't know who they were. There are seven badges waiting for them in both the Rangers and the Marshals. Four Corners not only holds their original land in trust for them, but the pack that they founded still survives to this day and runs a horse ranch on it for them. They even turned the original sheriff's office and jail into a museum just to them. I even got pictures! Well, ok they're off the website, but take a look!"
Danny turned his laptop around so that Jack could see the images that Danny had downloaded from the small museum. The faces that stared back from the screen were identical to the men, and two women, who were sitting across the way from him. "My god," Jack breathed. He knew that they really had been reincarnated, but to see their faces looking out of the old black and white pictures stunned him.
New York - FBI Missing Persons
It had been a Friday when they had all flown into New York, so it wasn't until Monday that everyone gathered in the Missing Persons office. When Vin did arrive, he was leading his pack as everyone had expected. What they didn't expect was to see Chris Larabee limping and wearing quite a few bandages.
They also weren't expecting to see Dr. Jackson facing down his pack's Alpha. "Damnit Chris! You will sit down and I mean now! Those knife wounds aren't anything to mess with!" Chris just snarled and sat down at the conference table next to the white board where Vin's FBI picture was hanging.
Every present member of the pack was avoiding looking at Chris, except for Dr. Jackson who hovered. Jack decided to take his que from Vin and did his best not to antagonize Larabee, who looked ready to bite the next person who got too close. He knew what the injuries were. Larabee had been in a dominance fight. That would make him touchier than usual; it wouldn't take much of anything to set him off.
As no one else here was injured he could only guess that it was with one or more of the Alphas of the New York Packs. There were three that he knew of that divided New York up between them, rather like a street gang or more accurately, several wolf packs sharing territory boundaries. A new pack moving in would have to negotiate a reworking of the territories, either that or take one over and kill or absorb the original pack. He just hoped that no one else had died.
Two Bloods had a low population as it was. Even if Larabee had killed someone, there was nothing that could be done about it. Two Blood dominance fights were outside of human laws and were only subject to Pack law. And Pack law stated that dominance fights were between those fighting and no matter what the outcome; everyone had to abide by that outcome. There was no such thing as an appeal. If someone was stubborn enough not to yield and died in the fight, then that was that. No further action would be taken.
Jack reached over and handed Vin a new badge. It had Vincent Tanner on the id portion. "Here you go Tanner; the rest of your paperwork should be done by Friday. Now, everyone listen up. Vivian got the `hack' warrants. That means that everything has to be by the book. There will be no fudging anything at all during this investigation. If you find something illegal, but the warrants don't cover it, you must, I repeat, you must go and back track it another way and get a different warrant to cover that information. No exceptions!" Jack gave his own version of Larabee's glare.
When he had received nods from everyone at the table (he still hadn't looked at Larabee, he wasn't that stupid) he waved at the piles of papers on the table in front of him. "We've managed to confirm 70 kidnappings from hospitals and doctor's offices going back thirty years. Vivian has confirmed that all of them except Vin died within ten years of being kidnapped. Unfortunately not all of them were infants. We've found that they've taken children as old as five years old from their families and placed this death curse on them. They net an average of $50,000.00 per child that they adopt out this way."
"Jack, we've managed to find two more." Sam placed a folder down on the table. "Mr. and Mrs. Fitzgerald told us about a couple they had referred to the adoption agency. They adopted a set of twin girls, the girls are ten years old now. The adoptive parents are in interrogation room three right now, the girls are at the hospital. The Witches there have confirmed that both girls are also under the death curse. It has been removed and the girls are undergoing therapy while we try to locate their birth parents."
Low snarls and growls came from the pack members sitting at the table. It was Vin who got them under control. "Ease up pards, them little gals is gonna be ok. Now's the time to track these varmints down and we'll give `em what they deserve when we know who's all involved."
Larabee nodded and Ezra spoke up. "Quite right, Mr. Tanner, I wouldn't want any of these vile miscreants to escape justice." He was fiddling with a deck of cards, shuffling them and doing card tricks, pulling up one card after another. He was very good at it, Jack decided, even more so as he didn't even seem to realize what he was doing.
"These," he tapped seven piles in front of him, "are everything we have on the men who work at the agency. While we also have files on the women, I know that you are only interested in the men as it was a man who cursed Vin. Now, we know that most of the adoptions going through this agency are legal. We know that these men," and he shoved five of the files a little apart from the others, "are involved with the illegal ones. One of them has to be the warlock or wizard who places the curse on these kids. We can't tell who it is just yet. Until we do, no one is to go after these men. I don't want anyone to walk into a magical ambush because we got careless."
"If you don't mind, Agent Malone?" Ezra asked as he and Josiah reached for the files. While Buck, JD and Vin gathered around them to read over their shoulders, Dr. Jackson stayed put at Larabee's elbow. Chris just snorted at Nathan's hovering. The man hadn't changed much after all these years, there wasn't anything he could do to change him now.
Jack didn't mind at all, not only would it keep them occupied, it left the women that they knew were involved to the rest of them. While they knew that it was a man who had cursed Vin, that didn't mean that one of the women couldn't be involved in the magical end of things as well. Every possibility had to be investigated. To do any less would be do play a game of magical Russian Roulette with people who had already stooped to placing death curses on children and infants for the tens of thousands of dollars in fees that they could charge.
Chris looked out over the mansion's big roof top garden where Adam was playing with Miz Nettie and Rain and sighed. It was so good to see Adam trying to walk and already getting into mischief. That alone made the challenge fights worth the pain of recovery. No matter how often he had to fight or how many Two Bloods he had to kill, having a safe home for his family was worth the effort.
Before they had come to New York, Vin had warned them that there were three packs that claimed the city. He had sent JD on ahead with the message that he intended to bring his pack to New York and was going to claim a territory. JD, being so young, physically at least, wouldn't be a threat and was well used to his role as messenger. To say the least, that although the other packs were glad that Vin had been returned to them, they weren't ready to turn over any of their territory over to a strange pack, and Four Corners Pack was and always had been, stranger than most.
It helped even less that what Chris wanted was Manhattan. Not only did it contain Central Park, a good place for Buck to run and Vin to climb trees and the like, but it also contained the federal building where Vin was now working, every sort of museum and high class establishment that Josiah and Ezra would enjoy, a great school system for Adam, and the only homes large enough and open enough for his pack. Not many New York homes had roof top gardens, four story atriums, two story libraries, a large enough kitchen to both feed and sit them all and most of all, rooms themselves that were large enough not to set off Vin's claustrophobia. Ezra, financial genius that he was, had found that exact home for them. Chris wasn't about to give it up, especially since it was so close to Central Park.
He had one meeting with the Bronx Pack already. It hadn't taken long for it to turn into a challenge rather than a meeting. Jason Kripke, the Bronx Pack Alpha wasn't ready for anyone to take any portion of his territory, no matter how small a part or if he and his pack ever used it or not. The meeting was held in Central Park, and not all of the Bronx Pack were in human form. That led to the locals who were out using Central Park to steer clear of the group, something for which Chris was more than happy. He had known that this was going to lead to a challenge the moment he laid eyes on Kripke.
Ezra, of course, had tried to negotiate, but it was fruitless. The Two Blood had eyes for no one but Larabee. Even though the Four Corners Pack was even more famous in Two Blood circles than they were in western law enforcement and he knew that they were a pack by every definition of the law, the very idea of a One Blood Alpha was enough to make Kripke's blood boil. Kripke swept Ezra away with a single blow, which enraged his already tense pack.
They had faced this situation more times than they could count, especially when the pack was first formed. They all fell back instantly into the half circle that would be their place during the challenge. Chris, on the other hand, decked Kripke with a single punch. He'd known every time he was reborn that sooner or later he would have to fight this sort of fight and he'd prepared for it. "Challenge is given, you low life. No one touches a member of my pack!"
"Challenge accepted, One Blood fake!" Kripke howled and his pack fell into their half of the circle. He lunged in with his knife, as by Pack Law he wasn't allowed to fight a One Blood Pack member in his wolf form. Chris ducked the lunge, catching the tip of the blade across his shoulder and slashing Kripke across the belly with his knife. Two Bloods were hampered by their own thinking when facing a One Blood in a challenge fight. They thought too much like wolves, who go for an opponent's limb first, then the body. A One Blood went for the body first.
Normally, Chris wouldn't have wanted to kill Kripke, but the Alpha had made one of his men bleed. That wasn't acceptable under any circumstances. Thus, his blow wasn't pulled. It wasn't enough to kill him, but it was enough to slow him down. And while Nathan was busy checking out Ezra (who was at the same time trying to brush him off so he could watch the fight) everyone already knew that Nathan wasn't about to do anything to help Kripke should Chris leave anything left of him.
Nathan didn't expect that there would be anything left. Neither did any of the rest of the Four Corners Pack. To strike a negotiator who was acting in good faith hard enough to draw blood was to incur the wrath of the negotiator's Alpha. Once blood had been drawn, there could be no other outcome but a challenge, and the outcome depended upon the personalities of those involved. Seeing Ezra struck down for no reason other than he was a One Blood was enough to ensure that Larabee was angry enough to kill. No one threatened Ezra but him, and no one hurt his people and lived.
Kripke came in swinging wildly, lost in his pain and anger that Chris had scored a hit on him. He managed to get in several blows, but didn't manage to do much more than piss Chris off. Nathan shook his head as he saw the knife connect, knowing that Chris didn't even feel it. Cuts across his face, his arms, his legs, Nathan knew that it was going to be hell trying to keep Chris down long enough for the wounds to heal. He also knew from seeing where the blood was pouring out from the multiple wounds Chris had delivered to Kripke's belly that the Two Blood wouldn't be on his feet for much longer. It was too bad the stupid bigot hadn't realized that for Chris to be an Alpha for as long as he had meant that he had gone up against much more than a single Two Blood and won.
When Kripke finally staggered and fell, Chris grabbed him back the back of the head and slit his throat. He was taking no chances with this bastard. He looked up into the shocked eyes of the Bronx Beta, "Manhattan belongs to the Four Corners Pack," he spat. "Now get out."
Sitting in a van doing surveillance was beyond boring but it was necessary. Not only did they have to find each and every person who was in any way involved with the illegal adoptions, they also had to figure out who was involved with the death curses. If the pack hadn't been willing, able, and experienced enough to join in on the surveillance it would have taken much longer. Buck, Josiah, and of all people Ezra were the ones who turned the tides of what had looked like an almost impossible situation. It also helped that as most of them were cops or FBI, they had been assigned to help with the case once the paperwork had gone through.
Josiah was an FBI profiler and Ezra was almost as good as he was. They handed over profiles of all of the people involved, even those they didn't have any evidence on. They had narrowed down the top suspects to two men and surprisingly one woman. Buck, being a Two Blood, had the senses of a wolf. Even in his human form, he was more than capable of smelling spell components on a person's hands.
He had enlisted the help of one of the Witches at the FBI office to get him a sample of every component necessary for the death curse. It took a while as some of them were more exotic than others, they guessed that it was one of the reasons why the perps didn't do this more often, but eventually he did get to take a sniff. Then, armed with the memory of just what they smelled like, they figured out an excuse for him to take a walk by all of their suspects. He confirmed that all three of those pinpointed by Josiah and Ezra had handled the spell components recently.
Danny had been as surprised at the woman being involved as he had Vin's new address. "I can't believe you moved to the Upper East Side, man. It doesn't seem like you at all." Danny was bound and determined to drive Vin nuts today, it would be his only entertainment this shift.
"It's got the only place big enough fer all a us an' it's got a' good school fer Adam and it ain't far from Central Park. As long as it's got what we need, who cares about anythin' else?" Vin did get what Danny was saying, but he couldn't resist. Two could play at that game.
"You guys really need a four story atrium? Or a two story library? I'm not even going to ask about the wine cellar or the,"
Vin interrupted, "We got a doctor, who needs an office, a baby who probably won't be the last, a Two Blood which is why it's just off Central Park, nearly all of us are avid readers, Miz Nettie needs a big kitchen to feed all of us, Ezra loves having a place to put his wine, and I'm claustrophobic. Now you tell me why we need such a big place and where else are we going to find one?"
"You're claustrophobic?" Danny had never even guessed.
"It ain't somethin' I like ta talk about." Vin sighed and stretched. "Most a the time, I kin handle it. Others, well the spell took care a it fer me, whether I wanted it to er not." Vin thought about it for a moment. "Ya know, I think it even made it a mite worse from time ta time."
"How can you even stand being in here?" Danny wondered. They were seated in a van crammed full of equipment across from one of the only two magic supply stores to have the most exotic ingredient for the death curse spell.
Vin grinned over at him and slightly bragged, "I got the winda seat." Danny laughed along with him. "Hey look sharp, here comes our gal now."
Vin put the van into gear and followed her down the street as she drove further into town. "How do you feel about not getting to prosecute these guys on your case?" Danny asked. It was a question that had been bothering him for a while. He knew that he would be furious if it was him, but Vin and the others just seemed to shrug it off.
"It lets us get in on the case and we already took care a the one who started the whole thing off when she grabbed me." Vin shrugged. "Sides, none a us think that the warlock or whatever he calls hisself, is gonna go down tame. He's gonna fight and that's what we're hopin' fer." The implication didn't seem to bother Vin as much as it did Danny, but then he hadn't been under that same curse either. It also seemed to fit into the way he was beginning to realize that Two Blood Packs looked at the world. Threats to the pack were met with deadly violence and no guilt.
"She's going inta there," Vin pointed. The store was one of the magical supply shops that sold the necessary spell components.
"Do you think she's getting more stuff for the death curse? Or that little `let's get more money from the marks' spell?" Danny asked. He had been disgusted to learn that their perps had also made sure that there was also extra money `earned' from the legal adoptions they had done.
"Only one way ta find out," Vin said and pulled out his cell phone. A quick warrant to find out what she had bought would tell them that. Vin didn't know whether to hope for or against her having bought the necessary components for the death curse spell, especially the blood of a virgin nun, and who had thought up that requirement anyway?
"If she did buy virgin blood, they're going to have to do the spell within twelve hours, before the blood goes bad, right?" Danny asked. Vin nodded. "Do you think they have a kid ready for the curse yet?"
"Probably, they bin doin this fer a long time now and they ain't bin caught yet." They looked at each other grimly. For the spell to be cast meant that somewhere another family was mourning the loss of a child, and a child was about to lose his or her chance at a normal, healthy and long life.
"The countdown has started." Jack wasn't about to waste time being diplomatic. He slapped a file down on the conference table. "They've taken a little girl and she'll be under the death curse by morning. We have to stop them before it touches her."
"Do we know where she's being held?" Larabee barked as he and the rest of the pack started pulling extra weapons out of the drawers of the desks that they had been given.
"No, but they have to bring her to the adoption agency for the ceremony. Ms. Lechen delivered the supplies there and nothing has come back out. They haven't taken anything into the building large enough to hide her in nor have they brought in any children matching her description since she was taken."
"No holster Buck," Chris said without looking. "You may need to change when we go in."
Buck grinned over at Vin and Ezra, and Jack noticed that they weren't the only ones who were sporting smiles that looked like someone's death. That's when he made his decision. No matter what happened, he didn't want these men to work for him. He'd be more than willing to work with them on any case, but he didn't want them in his department.
"I got the plans to the building!" JD cried as he ran back into the bullpen.
"Let's get them up on the board." Vivian took some of the papers from JD and together they covered one of the white boards. Jack started filling up the one next to it with the information on Maggie Benson, age two and a half.
"Where's Sam?" Danny asked committing the little girl's face to memory.
"She's going to pick up the Bensons and then the warrants. I want to be able to have this little girl back in her parent's arms, safe and sound by morning people." No one bothered to do more than nod that they agreed. These people wouldn't kill another child or tear apart another family.
"This looks like a good spot for you, Vin," Chris said as he tapped a mark on the blueprints. The only room large enough for the ceremony in the building was in the basement and the little alcove was not only an exit that Vin could block; it was also raised enough that he could use it as a sniper position and it had a clear view of the basement. "Do you have your new rifle yet?"
"Nope, I ain't gone through a course yet. Next one starts on the fifth," Vin grumbled. He hated that he was so far behind the times when it came to his sharp shooting.
"Within the confines of this structure and with the safety of the child in question you would want a rifle you are more familiar with in any case," Ezra stated. "I had your collection shipped up as soon as we bought the house. They arrived the same day as the horses did. I checked them all out and they are all still in good condition."
"How am I supposed to explain that; a sniper using antique weapons and the fact that he isn't even certified as a sniper yet?" Jack grumbled to himself. He knew he'd ok it though. What Tanner could do with a pistol was probably nothing compared to what he could do with his rifles, especially rifles that he knew every millimeter of. Absently he wondered which one Tanner would pick for this job.
Danny smirked as he caught Jack's almost silent grumbling. He'd better let Vin do what he wanted if he wanted to get on Larabee's good side. Plus, the man had more experience than most snipers even if he didn't know anything about the more modern and powerful rifles, none of which would be good to use within a basement anyway.
"They won't start the ceremony until one am," Josiah rumbled. "It has to be cast in the first hour of the new day, signifying the new life the child must lead."
"That gives us some time to get everything in place." Jack looked over the blueprints again. "We'll need people at all of the exits, here, here and here," he touched all of the places on the paper that Vin wasn't covering. "Can we get some people inside before closing without them figuring it out?"
"If Agent Spade doesn't mind posing as my wife, I do believe we would make a most tempting prospect," Ezra pointed out.
"That sounds good to me," Sam said as she approached the table with a man and a woman following her. "Jack, this is Mr. and Mrs. Benson."
Jack shook hands with both of them and introduced himself. "I'm Agent Jack Malone and I'm in charge of the Missing Persons Unit. We have a strong lead on your daughter. If all goes well tonight, she'll be back in your arms by morning."
"Oh Thank God!" Mrs. Benson cried. Vivian gently whisked them away to a waiting room.
"Danny, go to Judge Tasker and get the warrants, Sam work with Ezra and get ready to go in. I want to know everything you can about the layout of the main floor. The blueprints don't show anything but a large single room. They have to have divided it into cubicles or offices somehow." They all nodded and walked off, Danny headed for the door and elevator and Ezra and Sam headed for the locker rooms on the first floor.
Vivian returned and answered the look that Jack sent her way. "They don't want someone to hold their hands. They want all of us working on getting Maggie back to them safely."
"In that case go requisition warding charms for all of us. I don't know what kind of magical security they have, but when we interrupt them they're going to be throwing something at us."
"Better safe than sorry," she agreed and hurried off. She had to get there before the equipment department closed for the day. The rest of them buried themselves into planning their assault.
Ezra and Agent Spade had pulled off a perfect con on the people at the adoption agency if he did say so himself. They had not only gotten a tour of the facilities; they had also gotten a tour of the security systems after Agent Spade had expressed a concern over the children's safety while they would be waiting to be picked up. The young woman had performed the role of the air-headed, but concerned wife of wealthy man with aplomb.
He had worn special glasses provided for the role. They held a very small passive magic that allowed him to see the spells that were the hidden security system. They could only be detected by an aggressive scrying spell. It hadn't been detected and had served its purpose well. They had managed to find the systems weak points.
Ezra wasn't surprised to find that pouring over the blueprints and the drawings of the security systems became a matter of Alpha management. Jack Malone may not have been Two Blood Alpha material, but that didn't mean that he wasn't an Alpha. He and Nathan spent a lot of time soothing Chris and getting him to ease up his stance, although no one outside of the Pack realized it.
It was a subtle thing, Alpha management, Ezra mused as he leaned into Chris as he looked over his Alpha's shoulder. It didn't surprise him that few realized just how exceptional he was at the endeavor. Of course the fact that he deliberately drove Chris to distraction, both to take the heat of Chris' wrath off of others and because it was amusing helped to disguise his efforts, as did the fact that a great deal of the soothing was involved in the slight touches and body language of the Pack.
Chris threw a mild glare over his shoulder at Ezra. The Fibbees might not realize what Ezra was doing, but he did. It just wasn't in his nature to let someone else be in charge, but that's what he needed to do right now. Malone was a good man and a good agent. He knew how to plan an operation like this. The only real help he needed was finding out what the Pack could do.
He already knew what Vin could do with his pistol but the man had never seen Vin with a rifle in his hands. He had no idea what it meant for Buck to be a Two Blood. He had never seen Josiah on the warpath or Nathan using his knives. He had no idea how sharp JD's mind was or how good he was with two pistols in his hands. And most of all, Malone had no idea what it was like when he got really pissed off, how the wildness inside him almost took over, only tempered by the intellect that had kept him alive for so long in the worst of circumstances. He had no real concept of pack.
Jack was surprised at how professional these men were. He had expected a lot more growling and snarling and to be honest he had gotten some of that, but what he really had been dreading was Larabee trying to take over the plan. But Larabee hadn't done that. Oh he had objected to where his men were placed and had rearranged their positions and had forcibly included Dr. Jackson, Mr. Standish and JD, but other than that he hadn't tried to take over the operation.
Danny was paired with Vin, more to watch his back than anything else. They would be going in the secondary entrance on the main floor. It led down to an alcove that should give Vin an excellent view of the area Josiah said would be the most likely place to put an alter for a ritual working. The old Winchester rifle that had been brought from the mansion by JD was old, but still serviceable and Jack was more inclined to let Vin use it after he had seen Vin swiftly take it apart, clean it and put it back together. He had a bad moment when Dr. Jackson had asked if the sight was still off, but relaxed when the pack had laughed.
"Vin saved my life with that old rifle the day we met," Nathan explained to Vivian who was still looking alarmed. "It took him two shots because the sight was slightly off. He's so used to it now that if we fixed it for him, he'd have to learn how it fires all over again."
"How'd he do that?" Sam asked. The pack, more attuned to body language than the others could see that she was more than just slightly interested in Vin, although they could have told her that he wasn't interested in her.
"He shot the rope I was being lynched with. Some ranchers thought I'd killed their boss when he died of gangrene. They didn't like the idea of a black healer," Nathan said honestly. The remark brought home the fact that Nathan had seen first hand the changes from slavery to mostly equality for blacks in America.
"Would you mind being interviewed by my son for a history project when this is all over?" Vivian asked. "He needs the grades and to tell you the truth, I think his class needs to hear whatever you might have to say about what life was really like during the Civil War."
"Sure, I don't have any problems with that," Nathan said. "It's something that shouldn't be forgotten."
Ezra and JD were put in the surveillance van with Mac, their tech. Neither was happy with the situation but they didn't have any official standing to be there. Nathan, the only other civilian there had been officially ok'd as a doctor to make sure that Maggie was ok. They were the ones who were going to have to decide when to send in backup.
Chris and Jack were going to go in through the main entrance on the main floor. Neither one of them wanted their people to be exposed to the possible consequences of breaking one of the security spells if any had been missed. Josiah was paired with Sam and Buck with Vivian; they would be going in the outside entrances.
"Is every body ready?" Jack asked as he looked around. The grim faced group nodded. "Then let's do this."
"All right everyone, give me a go, no go," Mac said as he sat in the surveillance van with JD and Ezra. Normally he wouldn't have left the office, but they needed an extra man on the equipment that not only knew how to work it, but knew how to work with the sidelined pack members as well. He didn't mind the endless shuffling of Standish's deck of cards but the jokes JD was telling were getting on his nerves.
"Bossman, go," Jack said as he knelt by the front door, the bright white FBI letters on his dark blue jacket standing out in the dark.
"Alpha, go," Chris growled. Jack could see a kind of crazy delight spreading across his face in the dim glow of the security lights. He prayed that he was making the right decision in bringing these men along.
"Mother, go," Vivian said as she knelt in between Buck and Nathan.
"Beta, go," growled Buck, the change starting to leak over into his voice and eyes.
"Doc, go," Nathan said as he gripped his knives. He wasn't licensed to carry a gun in New York but his knives had done the job many, many times before. He wasn't worried about not having a gun.
"Cuban, go," Danny said. He had never been a spotter for a sniper before and was nervous about his first attempt. He felt he was lucky to have Vin be the one he was spotting for.
"Gamma, go," Vin said. The calm that came over him was the same as it had been so many times before. He would still be dealing with the adrenaline and shakes afterwards but at least he didn't have to deal with the `oh my god I just killed a man' reaction that most snipers had to deal with. He silently reflected that it was a good thing he wasn't as civilized as most people these days. It meant that he had a better handle on killing people who deserved it.
"Falcon, go," Sam said. She had heard all of the jokes about her name and was more than tired of them. But Danny and Vin were the ones who had given her Falcon as her code name for missions. She could accept the teasing from her friends.
"Delta, go," Josiah rumbled beside her. "And may the good lord bless us, amen." He was polite (and politically astute enough) not to add the rest of the prayer that was running through his mind. `Bless us to save this little girl and send those responsible to you for judgment.'
"Ok people, go for entry in three, two, one, go," Mac said. This was his first Death Curse case and he was doing his best to do everything exactly by the book. The last thing he wanted was for the case to be thrown out because of him. All three of the men in the van leaned in to watch the monitors. Each Agent, and all of the pack members were wearing small cameras to record both their movements and so that the jury could see what the Agents saw during the raid.
"Security system neutralized," Sam said as she put actions to words. This wasn't to be a barge in and arrest everyone in sight mission. If they did that the child would be dead well before they arrived anywhere near enough to rescue her.
"Entering the first floor," Jack said as he and Chris silently opened the door and headed for the main entrance to the basement. Vin and Danny went in through the back door when Jack gave them the ok. Swiftly they cleared the main floor of the small building. There wasn't anyone on the main floor so Jack gave the signal to proceed into the basement.
Danny took the lead, making sure that the stairway was clear while Vin followed holding his rifle at the ready. They met no resistance on the stairway and quickly reached the alcove that had been chosen as Vin's sniper spot. Just as Josiah had predicted, the warlock had set up his alter against the sidewall and Vin had a clear view of the area.
"Bossman, we have four, repeat, four perps. Our vic is on the alter. Steward is conducting. He's standing right in front of the alter. The other three are right behind him. All are facing the alter." Danny was shocked at how calm Vin was as he gave Jack his report. He could have been talking about the weather instead of a ceremony that was about to condemn a toddler to slavery and death. "I have a clear shot, repeat; I have a clear shot at the main target. He is about halfway through the ritual." Vin might not have taken his sniper course yet, but he'd been around the local SWAT teams enough to know they talked. Richard Steward was the warlock. He was one of the two adoption attorneys they had suspected and Walter Cross, the other attorney was right behind him. Ms. Lechen was on Cross' right and another man was on his left. The last man must be the one who had brought in their victim.
"Shit!" Jack made a quick decision. "Larabee, if Tanner takes the shot can Buck get the vic clear before they have a chance to retaliate?"
Chris nodded. He had expected that's what would be needed. "Beta, change," he barked.
Buck grinned as he passed his gun to Vivian. He hated those who preyed on pups, human or Two Blood. He had prepared for this chance by wearing only a t-shirt, sweat pants and sneakers, all black. He quickly stripped off the single layer of clothing and let the change flow over him. Vivian pocketed Buck's gun and tried to follow the large grey wolf with her eyes as he slunk around the shelves and boxes on their side of the basement. It didn't take more than a moment for him to disappear. "Beta's in position," she heard after two minutes. Danny had him spotted. She breathed a sigh of relief and Nathan patted her on the shoulder. They reached their spot a moment later. "Mother and Doc, targets in sight," Nathan growled.
"Falcon and Delta, targets in sight. No opposition," Sam said as she and Josiah finally reached a place where they could both see and cut off any escape attempts by the perps. They were determined that no one would be getting past them.
"Gamma, you have permission to fire after I announce us. On three people; one, two, three - FBI FREEZE!" Jack yelled as he and Chris broke cover, aiming their guns at those participating in the ritual. Steward reacted to the sudden intrusion by first spinning around as his helpers did, then turning back around he reached over his head with the knife in his hand and trying to stab little Maggie. He did not succeed because two things happened. First, while his back was turned Buck jumped up on the alter in between Maggie and any danger. Second, Vin took his first shot and Steward was suddenly missing a good portion of his right hand.
When one of Steward's followers pulled a gun on Jack, Vin announced, "Switching targets." Vivian and Nathan had their woman on the ground and Josiah had his man in a bear hug off the ground while Sam disarmed him. Vin took this in within the split second it took for him to acquire his new target. "Taking the shot," he announced. Before he had finished the sentence, Jack and Chris were sprayed with blood and other things as the bullet from Vin's rifle passed through the base of the man's skull, out through his throat and missed Chris by inches.
"DAMNIT TANNER I'M GONNA SHOOT YER ASS!" Vin ignored the often repeated threat and turned back to his original target. Only to witness a sight he had seen more than once before; Buck savaging a man to death with his teeth. The only thing that Vin felt was satisfaction. Steward had been the one who had cursed him and from what he could see of what was left, the man he had killed was the man who had turned him over to Victor.
"MAC REPORT!" Jack yelled, hoping like hell that whatever reason Wilmington had for killing Steward had been recorded.
"Steward attempted a magical attack on Beta," Mac answered knowing what Jack wanted to know. "He defended himself and the victim. Gamma prevented a previous attack with a knife and he shot and killed Cross before he could shoot you or Alpha. Mother, Falcon and Delta have their perps under control. Doc is checking out the victim. Permission to send in Standish and Dunne with Doc's medical kit?"
"Permission granted," Jack said gratefully. The vial of virgin's blood was still off to one side on the alter. It hadn't been used. They had made it in time.
The entire case was closed by noon the next day. The judge had taken two hours and gone over the evidence, reports, and Audio/Video tapes and had rendered a guilty verdict. Ms. Lechen and David Evens were both executed two hours after the sentence had been handed down. Vin and Buck both had a AID (Agent involved death) meeting but both were cleared of any wrong doing. No one had expected anything else as both Steward and Cross' death's were recorded. "About half of the death by magic cases end up with the perp dead rather than captured. They know what's waiting for them," the senior agent in charge of the hearing told Vin. By ten o'clock Maggie Benson had been cleared by both the doctors and the witches at the hospital and her parent's had taken her home but not before they had personally thanked both Vin and Buck.
Jack sighed as he placed the last file folder in his out box. "That's it, it's all over. Everyone involved has been tracked down and dealt with. All that's left to do is give you this Larabee," he said as he passed a letter over to the man sitting in front of his desk. It was the AD's offer to the Seven to form their own unit based there in the New York office building but going wherever their cases took them.
"What kind of cases are we going to be given?" Chris asked. He had been expecting some kind of offer.
"The worst of the worst in whatever comes into this building; murder, racketeering, kidnapping, pupnapping, death by magic. The AD wants you and the rest of the Seven to use as attack dogs. You'd have free reign over the unit and you'd answer directly to him." Jack was glad that the new AD had gone for his new unit idea. He wasn't the only one who would be more than willing to work with them but no one wanted to try and ride herd on these men.
"Who's the AD?" Chris wanted to know. If it was still Fitzgerald the answer was no. They'd figure something else out.
"Because Victor Fitzgerald was involved with a death by magic case, although he wasn't aware of it, he's been transferred. I don't know where yet. The judge ruled that the adoptive parent's were as much victims as the children but I think someone didn't quite agree in his case. I guess they thought he should have investigated the agency better. The new AD is a man named Orrin Travis. He used to be a judge."
Chris smiled a sight that was still unsettling to Jack. "Been a while since we've worked for Travis. Be a real shame to turn him down now. Tell him we'll start on Monday." Chris took the offer and left the office.
Jack racked his brain to remember where he'd heard the name Travis in connection with the Seven before. `Oh crap, circuit court Judge Orrin Travis! He was the one who first hired the Seven in the first place!' Jack thought. `This is going to be one hell of a ride.'
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