"What do you mean - you don't know where they are?"
Chris bellowed at the FBI agent before him. "You don't lose undercover
agents - you sure as hell don't lose my undercover agents!" he
Chris, Vin and JD had flown into Sacramento that day
to find that the FBI had lost track of Buck and Josiah. He wasn't just
yelling at some petrified feeb field agent; oh no, Special Agent Christopher
Larabee, Team Leader of the famous - or infamous - ATF Team Seven out
of Denver, was letting rip at the director of the FBI California regional
The fact that the FBI had no idea where his friends
were, and hadn't for nearly a week was bad enough - that they failed
to tell him this until that morning was just the icing on a very unpleasant
ONE MONTH EARLIER
"Okay guys, new assignments," Chris announced
to the conference room where Team Seven were assembled. "and you
ain't gonna like it."
Six faces looked at him with a verity of expressions
- apprehension, curiosity, resignation.
"The federal government - in its infinite wisdom
- wants a variety of jobs done all at once and we have been assigned
three of them. Ezra?" The suave southerner - whose reaction to
the up coming assignments had apparently been resigned detachment -
looked up at his boss. "You are going to Quantico to teach a month
long special course on advanced undercover techniques."
There was long pregnant silence; they all knew how Ezra
felt about his former employers.
"Sir," Ezra began, his soft accent suddenly
made hard with icy coldness. "I have no intention of doing any
"It's not a request, Standish - it's an order;
you leave Sunday night. Think of it as an honour, you were the first
choice for this course," Chris explained with uncharacteristic
"That implies there were other candidates - let
them do it," Ezra countered.
"Ezra you know the rules, you have been undercover
for three of the last four months - you have to have a break of at least
a month, those are the rules. Look
"Chris changed tack, "you're
going first class, five star hotel on expenses, and you get to show
the feebs how it's done, what more do you want?"
Jade green eyes held forest green; what Ezra wanted
to say was, 'to be with my family' but that would be to admit he needed
them and need was a weakness. Ezra P Standish had been trained to never
show weakness for as long as he could remember. It was an ingrained
training that was hard to break. His silence Chris took for acceptance.
"Right," Chris turned to the others. "Don't
look so smug. Nate?"
"Yo," the tall EMT called out.
"You're re-qualifying all next week and the week
after - right?"
"Yes, Monday to Friday, 9 to 5 both weeks,"
"And Vin, you've got another week at the DPD academy
- right?" Vin nodded, he had been teaching a master class on sniper
techniques to new SWAT officers in training.
"Yeah?" JD called out, not at all sure he
wanted to know what was coming.
"You got Internet liquor wholesale suppliers' licences
to check out."
"What?" JD asked indignantly.
"Don't say a thing, it has to be done, you're the
best qualified to do it. So get to it, the list will be in your inbox
by now, but I'm hoping you can find some suppliers other then the ones
listed and therefore unlicensed." JD's protest died on his lips,
he could tell just from Chris' body language there was no room to argue.
Finally Larabee turned to the last two team members
- who were waiting to be assigned liquor store and bar licence checking
"You two are going to California," Larabee
Chris went on to explain that there was a group of anti-government
survivalists who were worrying both the FBI and the ATF - since they
appeared to be stockpiling a lot of weapons and ammunition suddenly.
Buck and Josiah fitted the profile of the kind of people the group was
now actively recruiting at gun fairs and anti-government gatherings.
Which was to say they were white, fit, aged between 35 and 60, knew
how to handle a gun and were un-attached - the rest they could fake.
All they had to do was get in, find the group's main compound and if
possible work out if they were any kind of a threat. Most such groups
were classed as harmless, all talk no action - but every now and again
one became a real threat.
The gun fair was an ATF agent's dream. Buck had spotted
at least 8 major gun-law violations already, and he wasn't even looking.
He wasn't there for that though, Josiah had been successfully recruited
a week ago at a rally. He'd been approached at the same rally and was
meant to meet a contact here to see if he had also been accepted - if
his cover had stood up. Josiah's cover was as a disenchanted Vietnam
vet - he was an ex-marine so he could pull off the roll with little
homework. Buck was posing as a former rodeo rider and gun enthusiast
- he had ridden in amateur rodeos as a boy in Nevada and for some years
"Bill Wallace?" a voice sounded beside him.
Responding to his new name, Buck spun around. "Yeah?"
"I hear you're looking for a new way?" The
man was a good six inches or more shorter than Buck, his sandy hair
was cut in a short crew-cut, or at least it appeared to be, from what
Buck could see under the khaki cap. He was wearing a matching khaki
shirt with smart creases in it and although he wore jeans, they were
clean and relatively new, his high-laced army-style boots were polished
to an impressive shine.
"If you mean I'm tired of bein' shoved around by
the fed's you're right," Buck replied, glad he had bothered to
iron the dark plaid shirt he was wearing.
"Show me some ID," the man responded. Buck
produced his newly-acquired Californian driver's license. The man checked
it and returned it. "You check out Mr Wallace, welcome to the Freedom
Way." He extended his hand and they shook, that done he introduced
himself as Henry Greening.
"You ready to travel, or do you need to get stuff?"
"I got all I need in the truck," Buck stated.
The feds in California had provided him with a fund
and he had purchased his own vehicle, a six year old Chevy pick-up.
Now all he had to do was pray his FBI tail didn't lose him.
He followed Greeting's army surplus jeep up into the
hills above Reading, there he met more new recruits. Unlike Sanchez,
Buck had never been in the military and his introduction to military-style
training convinced him he was right to go straight into the police when
he left college. But he survived the week and apparently impressed is
now 'comrades in arms' because he was moved to the groups headquarters.
This was one of the primary objectives of the mission but it wasn't
to be that easy. He was told his truck would remain at the basic training
camp and he would travel a closed truck. The journey lasted about six
hours. The roads were good to begin with, but from the feel of it they
quickly left the metalled road for a dirt track. Most of the time they
moved upwards and rarely was the road straight. Buck tried to catch
a glimpse of the world beyond the canvas truck covering, but all he
saw was passing trees, and since it got dark after only a few hours
there was little more he could do.
After a night on a hard bunk in a hut with the other
five new arrivals he had travelled with, he found himself meeting the
'Commander'. Colonel Paul Freeman, a former commander of army Special
Forces, a man who believed his name was prophetic. He was at least six
feet tall, his steel grey hair matched his eyes and the power of his
rhetoric; and yet you couldn't help but feel he lacked a certain something
when it came to the force of his personality. Buck found himself wondering
what a battle of wills between the colonel and Larabee would be like
and concluding his old friend would win hands down. The former soldier
gave his new recruits a mission statement speech. It seems he had had
a 'Road to Damascus' type revelation about the true nature of the Federal
Government and the world-wide conspiracy had turned him against his
former employer. He believed his own personal army needed to be readied
and prepared for what ever pre-emptive action he determined needed to
As they were ushered back to the living area Buck had
feeling they had been right to be worried about this particular group
and he once more cast his eyes about for Sanchez. Five days later he
still hadn't seen the big profiler, but had undergone five days of induction
training. It was the first time Buck had wished he had done a stint
in the military instead of going straight from college to the DPD, but
he got through it. All the other recruits were ex-military, though for
some of them it had been some years behind them. After the basic training
was over they were once more moved, once again they were transported
in a closed truck to the group's main headquarters. Once they got there
Buck realised why they had been so interested him. The headquarters
was a working ranch in the hills.
It was in fact more than a ranch - there were pigs,
and chickens, as well as both beef and milk cows. There were carefully
cultivated gardens growing fruit and vegetables. There was a smokehouse
and a mini canning plant. The electricity came from wind and waterpower,
as well as solar power panels on the roofs of all the buildings. They
were as self sufficient as they could be. Buck was assigned to the horse
barn, which suited him; it was at least something he understood. That
first day he finally spotted Sanchez. The big man was caring for the
"I like it," he confessed, "I can talk
to them, tell them anything, they like to hear your voice."
"What have you found out?" Buck asked, taking
a turn at tossing grain to the chickens.
"Probably not much more than you, I have seen one
shipment of boxes that looked suspiciously like guns arrive. Greening
checked it and then waved it through, it headed further up the main
track, it was about an hour before the truck returned so wherever it
went it wasn't that far."
"How long would you reckon it would take to unload
what you saw?"
Josiah shrugged. "I've got no idea how many people
were there to help, but at max I'd say twenty minutes."
"So thirty minutes up, twenty there and ten back,
on these roads, at say fifteen MPH on the way up there, that's less
than eight miles?" Buck speculated.
"Yeah, that's what I reckoned," Sanchez confirmed.
"What are you doing?"
"Horses, just general horse work in the barn, they
got some nice stock, I'll give them that. The old guy running the place
hinted they were thinking of having a rodeo. I get the feeling things
can get a mite dull around here for all you ex-military types,"
he added with a grin.
"You reckon the FBI have clue where we are?"
Josiah asked casually.
"Nope, not one."
"That's what I was thinking. Damn! Chris is gonna
be pissed if we're stuck here for a whole month."
"Ain't that the truth." For all their casual
joviality they were keenly aware how alone and vulnerable they now were.
Every other day everyone did some form of military training
and every morning there were compulsory callisthenics. Josiah thought
he was going to have a heart attack at any minute -but was secretly
surprised at how good he felt once he had recovered from the initial
stiffness. They were accommodated in cabins, four to a cabin; they were
basic but comfortable. The fact that they were both sharing with three
strangers made investigating the ranch and its surroundings difficult.
But after a week, and on the pretext of exercising the ranch stallion
- who was indeed getting very difficult to handle due to lack of exercise
- Buck finally located the arsenal; or what he took to be the arsenal.
Circling around the he finally found a ridge that he could follow and
look down on the trail. Just as he predicted, seven miles from the main
ranch compound he found an abandoned mine, guarded by two armed men
and its entrance secured by a very new-looking steel barred door.
The evenings - since there were was no television or
radio - consisted of carefully selected old movies, training sessions
and lectures which pressed home the message that the federal government
was in the control of an evil conspiracy and had to be brought down
for the good of the country. By the end of Buck's first week there,
it was clear the group did warrant the concern the authorities were
showing in them. All that remained was for the two agents to work out
where they were and get out. Working on how long it took to reach the
first camp and then the ranch, and on how high they thought they were
based on the vegetation, they agreed they were about three to four hundred
miles north of where they started, but that covered a large area. The
rules were that new arrivals weren't allowed out into the nearest town
- whatever it was - for a month. That left sitting it out or making
a run for it. All maps were kept in the main house and that was strictly
out of bounds. Josiah said that given enough time he could make a crude
sextant and plot their position from the stars - if he knew how - which
So they bided their time. The rhetoric was annoyingly
repetitious and spectacularly inaccurate, but the hate and distrust
of all aspects of the federal government, was real. Josiah concentrated
on his chickens and Buck his horses; at least with the animals they
could be themselves. There were no women at the ranch, not one, but
there were women at the induction base and just occasionally they came
up on the supply trucks. On the second Saturday a truck pulled up. This
one was eagerly awaited. For most of the time the ranch was 'dry' but
every other weekend a limited supply of beer was delivered. On this
truck was a pretty Latino woman.
Buck watched her mount the steps to the main house,
appreciating the way her lithe hips swung under her calf length multi-coloured
skirt, her tight fitting tee-shirt accentuation her figure.
"Keep off boy," the voice behind him made
Wilmington start. "She's the boss' masseuse." Buck looked
around at Hank O'Brian, the old man in charge of the barn, his expression
totally readable. "No, a real one, he took a lot of shrapnel in
Nam, got a bad back."
This Buck accepted, even believed, so he turned away
from the door and went back to grooming the palomino mare. The beer
was meant to be kept until supper, but a small group who had night duty
were permitted theirs early. It wasn't enough for them to get drunk,
just enough to loosen some inhibitions, and starved of female company,
even a female form for three weeks, the men were more than appreciative
when the young woman returned from the house some three hours later.
"Well hello, pretty one," a tall man named
Staples said as he stepped in front of her, "give the boss a good
'rub down' did ya?" he leered.
"I did my job, si." She tried to push
past him, but a second man joined him.
"Oh come on honey, my back's paining me real bad,
could use a good rub down, a little personal attention, don't you know?"
He tried to kiss her, but she managed to duck away, only to be met by
a third man.
"How about my bad leg? Can ya fix it, cup-cake?
Huh?" This time she didn't manage to avoid the kiss.
Buck heard and saw, and couldn't ignore the situation;
he put the horse brush down and headed out into the sunlight.
A man called Tucker was trying to kiss her now, and
just as he nearly succeeded a huge hand landed on his shoulder, and
he was spun around to face an angry Buck.
"I don't believe the lady has time to stop and
talk," he growled menacingly.
The second man laughed. "Lady? She ain't no lady,
just a damn Mex hoo
" He got no further because Buck's punch
filled his open mouth, propelling him backwards to land on his ass in
Not even bothering to see if his victim would get up,
Buck gently but firmly took the girl's hand and pulled her around to
stand behind him.
"Why don't you two 'gentlemen' just say goodbye
to the lady and we'll say no more about this, okay?" he offered.
"Wallace, what's yer problem?" the man asked.
"We's jist havin' a bit of fun is all." His Texas accent reminded
Buck of Vin, but he had none of Vin's charm or strength in his voice.
"I got not problem, I'm an easy going kinda guy,
but the lady here wants to leave now, without your help - alright?"
The man he hit was back on his feet again, blood running
freely from the corner of his mouth. The three of them now lined up
in front of him as the girl sheltered behind his back. From across the
yard Josiah saw what was happening. He didn't want to get involved yet,
they had been going out of their way to ensure that no one knew they
were friends. But as he watched things were turning ugly, other men
were now watching, it was hard to tell whose side they were on. Just
as he thought he was going to have to act, Greening - the colonel's
trusty second in command - walked up.
"What's going on?" he asked.
"Nothing," Buck announced breezily, "jist
a little misunderstanding, nothing really - right boys?"
Greening looked at the other three; he knew them and
what they were like. "The truck's ready to go back, best get aboard
Miss," he said without taking his eyes off the three men.
"Si Senor," she said shakily.
"I'll walk with you darlin'," Buck announced,
turning so that he kept his body between her and the men.
Josh Marshall had watched the whole incident from the
motor pool where he was cleaning a truck, something about what had just
happened was familiar, yet he couldn't work out why. He watched Wallace
walk the girl to the truck, watched the way she was comfortable in his
presence, how she let him stroke her cheek and kiss her gently on the
forehead, and how it was she who pulled him down for a proper, lingering
kiss. The more he watched the more he felt like he was watching a re-run
of an old movie.
That evening there was beer for supper and a movie,
no lecture, but Josh wasn't feeling as relaxed as he should have been.
He was an average sized man about the same age as Buck, his pale blond
hair was mostly gone now, he had served in the army for the best part
of fifteen years mostly as a mechanic. That night he tossed and turned
until it finally came to him.
"You sure?" Greening asked him for the third
"Sir, would I drag you out of bed at three am if
I wasn't sure?" Marshall asked.
"No, no I guess not. Denver you say?"
Marshall nodded. "I never did like him either,
"Name?" The voice bellowed in his ear yet
Buck had lost count how often the question had been
asked, his reply was always the same. His name was Ben Wallace. He had
been dragged from his bed in the middle of the night; no one let him
dress or told him what was going on. Now he was in a cellar someplace,
he didn't know where, dressed in nothing but a pair of old sweats. Each
wrist was wrapped in rope, tight enough to hold him, but not tight enough
to cut off his circulation. Each rope was stretched out to run through
a ring set into the wall either side of him, at the end of the rope
hung a weight. He had taken hold of the ropes and pulled them in a bit,
that way the rope didn't pull on his arms, but he was getting tired.
The man, not someone he had seen around before, walked
backwards and forwards behind him.
"See, the thing is I don't believe you. Someone
recognised you, that little 'knight in shining armour' display you put
on jogged someone's memory, so let's try again. What
He slammed his fist in to the small of Buck's back,
forcing him to stumble forward, as pain lanced through him, he lost
hold of the ropes and the weights suddenly yanked his arms apart.
Before he could get his breath or stand fully upright
again a second blow landed on his left kidney. He stifled a cry of pain
into a grunt.
Blow number three, this time the right kidney was targeted.
This time the it wasn't a fist, but a boot, it slammed
into the back of his already shaky left knee and he crumpled instantly
to the cold concrete floor. The weights rose as he pulled the ropes
down, but he didn't have the strength to fight against gravity and the
weights slowly sank again pulling his arms up.
"I told you," Buck ground out past clenched
teeth; "my name is Wallace, Ben Wallace."
The man walked up to stand right behind him, his hand
dropped down to wind its way around Buck's neck, he bent down to whisper
in the captive agent's ear. "Thing is, I know what your name is,
I just want you to tell me, that's all, just tell me your name."
Buck knew better. You never said anything - once you
started talking it was too easy to slip up, if he did that he might
betray Sanchez. No matter what he had to say nothing; a name - a false
name, that was all they got - seeing as he didn't have a rank or serial
number. Suddenly the man was in front of him, he hadn't even noticed
him moving around. That was bad.
Focus Wilmington, focus! Put the pain to one side,
concentrate on what's important, focus! He chided himself.
"Tell you what, I'll let you think on it, for a
while anyway." Before Buck had even looked up the door opened and
closed and single light winked out, plunging the cold, bare room in
Buck tried to get into some position where his back
didn't shoot daggers of white-hot pain into him every time he breathed.
He wanted to lie down and curl into a defensive ball, but he couldn't,
the ropes didn't have that much play on them. Kneeling as he was his
arms were pulled up and apart in a 'Y' shape. In order to relieve the
pull on is shoulders he had to stand up and take hold of the ropes and
pull them in. Right then he didn't have the strength to do that, but
he knew he had to do it soon, as much as his lower back hurt, pain was
already playing across his shoulders, if he didn't move soon he'd get
cramp. Summoning all his strength he took hold of the ropes and pulled
them taut, using them to help haul himself back onto his feet. He felt
a little light-headed but it passed. The left knee throbbed where it
had been kicked but it would hold him. Upright, his arms were stretched
at shoulder height, and that made things easier on his back muscles.
His kidneys were still shooting daggers up his back, all the way to
his armpits but it was subsiding slowly.
He had no idea how long he stood there; every now and
again he let the rope go and took the strain of the weighs through his
arms to his shoulder, then he took the rope and pulled it in so he could
bend his arms. It was cold in cellar, damp too, the concrete floor was
rough and unfinished and there was no air circulating. He knew logically
that he was being listened to, possibly watched; an infra-red light
and camera would be invisible to him. But he didn't care so he sang
to himself, silly, stupid things. He sang Love Me Tender and Suspicious
Minds - that was a stroke of unintentional genius he realised. He sang
You Are My Sunshine and Mammas, don't let your babies grow up to be
Cowboys and finally Always Look on the Bright Side of Life. He was just
whistling the final chorus again, when the door opened.
"You were described to me as a 'cocky bastard'
I can see that was an accurate description. I really hate 'cocky bastards',"
his inquisitor said in a voice that was soft with implied menace.
"Not a music lover?" Buck asked, he knew it
was a stupid thing to do, antagonise his tormentor, but if he was going
to be labelled cocky he might as well live up to it.
The man didn't rise to the bait, he just walked in,
the heavy metal door swinging shut behind him with an ominous clang.
"How's your back?" he asked.
"Fine, you should market this thing as a cure for
back ache." Buck let his shoulders take the strain; his arms pulled
Just then a large hand landed on the small of his back,
strong fingers pressed into his left kidney making his gasp as the pain
shot up his side.
"What's your name?" he asked.
Buck didn't reply, he was concentrating on getting his
response under control, he knew the man was going to hurt him again,
he prepared himself this time, he wouldn't give the bastard the satisfaction
of a reaction, a joke, an insult, a witty repost - but no admission
of pain. The hand pressed down again, another wave of pain shot up his
back. But he didn't react.
"Having fun back there, buddy?" Buck managed
to ask. "Lotta girls say my ass is my best feature. What do you
"I think you're a spy, I think you're the law,
I know you're not who you claim to be." This final statement was
followed by a blow across the back that forced Buck forward, he stumbled
but kept his feet, making himself stay upright.
"Look buddy, I am who I say I am, plain ol' Ben!
I used to ride in rodeos, never won jack shit! Been working and drifting
for years, I want something more than driftin' an' I don't want no stinking
fed in fucking DC telling me what to do."
"Wrong answer!" the man roared, stamping down
on the back of Buck's left knee forcing him down on to the floor, arms
suddenly jerked up. His hair was grabbed and his head yanked back. "We
know who you are, we will get proof, save yourself more discomfort,
just tell me your name, that's all you have to do, it's nothing."
Then before Buck could even think of a reply the man's elbow came down
on to his right shoulder, pile-driving down into the hollow above his
collar bone - there was an audible crack. No one had ever done that
to Buck - and he had been beat on plenty in his time - and he couldn't
believe how much it hurt. He couldn't help it; he cried out, only choking
back the sound when it was almost over. Before he was even fully aware
of what was happening he was left alone in the darkness again, with
just his pain to keep him company.
The colonel was advised of the problem, and he personally
interviewed Marshall. Josh Marshall had once had aspirations to be a
policeman; he managed to get a place at the Denver police academy. A
young Buck Wilmington was in the class above him. Buck was everything
Marshall was not. He was a good cadet - not top of the class, he wasn't
good at the book learning, but confident and good at the practical tasks.
He was popular with most of the men and all the women. He was tall,
slim but not skinny and good-looking. Marshall remembered him well,
now he had put a name to the face. Marshall didn't make it through the
academy, he was asked to leave; lack of aptitude they said.
"You're sure it's him?" Freeman asked again.
"Sir, yes sir, that man's name is Buck Wilmington
- Buck, dumb name, you don't forget a name like that - anyway he is
- or was - a cop in Denver."
"That's good enough for me," Freeman looked
up at his right-hand man, "get proof," he instructed.
Greening snapped a drill book perfect salute and departed.
Josiah looked casually around the mess hall at breakfast
searching for Wilmington's tall frame; they had an agreement to at least
make eye contact first thing in the morning. He couldn't see him or
pick out the sound of his voice. Collecting his own meal he sat where
he could see the door, Buck did not come. Sanchez collected a second
and then a third mug of coffee, but still his partner did not come.
Finally he had to leave, to have stayed longer would have raised suspicions.
After breakfast there were callisthenics. Josiah was usually two rows
back and six men over from Buck, who while protesting how much he hated
it was thriving on the additional exercise, but not that morning. He
tended the chickens and helped in the vegetable plots with an increasing
feeling of dread. His fear increased when he didn't see Buck at lunch.
He managed to sit next to one of Buck's bunkmates, a young man called
Jimmy Miller. Jimmy wasn't very bright, Buck had even speculated that
Jimmy was mildly retarded.
"Jimmy isn't it?" Josiah started.
The young man's head bobbed once, his close-cropped
brown hair catching the noonday sun. "Yes sir," he confirmed.
"Have you seen Ben today?" Josiah asked casually,
"he was gonna show me the stallion this afternoon."
"He left, last night; 's shame, he's an all right
kinda guy, you know?"
Josiah smiled. Yes indeed, Buck was an 'alright kinda
guy'. "Where'd he go?"
"Jist left, some guys came an' got him last night,
guess it was some kinda emergency."
Josiah had no reason to doubt the young man; he just
wasn't smart enough to lie convincingly. But he knew there could be
only one reason for his partner's sudden removal. He was alone, he was
in danger - he knew Buck would never willingly give him up, but everyone
has their limit, even stubborn S.O.Bs like Buck. He had to find Buck
and get out, that was all that mattered now.
Buck stood as still as he could. It had been hard to
climb to his feet, but it was better than kneeling on the floor. He
wanted to lie down and curl up in a ball, but he couldn't even sit,
all the ropes would let him do was kneel or stand. Kneeling caused his
shoulder the most agonising pain, with his arms raised up he could feel
the broken ends of his collarbone grating together. Standing, with his
arms out straight pulled the bones apart, it still hurt but it was nothing
compared to the grating. The actual process of standing was the worse
part, his left knee, which had been kicked most often trembled. He was
putting more and more weight on the other leg, now it too was protesting
the at the additional weight and its own mistreatment. He was cold;
who the heck said Hell was hot? Hell wasn't hot it was cold - cold and
damp and dark. He shivered; shivering hurt, but he couldn't stop it.
Shock, logically he knew he was in shock, but he was powerless to help
himself, his captors hadn't even given him a drink. Time seemed to stop;
he had no concept of how long he had been there.
Suddenly the door flew open, the light came on, temporarily
blinding him, as he squinted at the dark silhouetted figure in the doorway.
"Hello Mr Wilmington, nice to meet you," his
tormentor greeted coolly.
Hell! Buck thought, So they do know and they're
not interested in having me say it anymore, they're in a hurry, want
to move up the timetable. Not good, not good at all.
"Still on your own two feet? I'm impressed."
"Bastard!" Buck spat out past parched, cracked
"Actually, according to your birth certificate,
the only bastard around here is you, Mr 'father unknown' Wilmington.
Let me see, born in Louisiana, so you're a southern 'good ol' boy'.
Who would have thought? Of course the fact that you went to high school
in Nevada - Las Vegas, and Denver would explain the lack of any southern
drawl. Collage in Denver too and then we get to the good part, from
college straight into the Denver police academy, now that I find very
The man advanced on him, his expression blank and unreadable.
"But you left the Denver P D, didn't you?"
Buck returned his hard stare, doing his best not to shake or tremble
although his body was fast betraying his intentions. "Now you claim
to be a failed rodeo rider - that is partly true isn't it?" Still
Buck did not respond. "See this," the man held up a photocopy
of a newspaper article, it depicted two young cowboys showing off a
collection of trophies and rosettes. "This says you weren't a pro
rider, you were an amateur - that is you isn't it, under the white hat?
Very knight in shining armour that - and you were good. Let me see
it says 'Buck Wilmington (left)' that's you 'and Christopher Larabee,
both patrolmen with the DPD, cleaned up at the annual amateur rodeo
this weekend, between them the two cops won 15 of the 18 categories
they were entered for.' Very impressive, 15 out of 18, very good."
The man's voice changed it became harder, colder, darker. "Christopher
Larabee it known to us, he's a fed, ATF, a dangerous man, and you were
Buck looked at him, he was tired and he hurt but he
had to protect Josiah, but right then he was also mad as hell.
"I don't know what you want from me," he ground
out. "I am who I say I am, so do whatever you gotta do. You get
your rocks off poundin' on folk, go ahead, be my guest! But just shut
the fuck up and do it, 'cause I'm tired of listening to your shit. You
know what you are? You're a bully, you like making people hurt."
The man took an ominous step closer, but Buck was past
"What are you, Freeman's tame pitbull? He needs
some dirty work done, so he calls in his pet terrier? 'Here boy! Good
doggie!' So do it, get your perverted little kicks. Do your master's
dirty work. But I ain't gonna tell ya jack shit! Know why? 'Cause I
don't know shit!"
A piledriver of a punch impacted with the right side
of his chest, knocking all the air out of him, his already shaky legs
crumpled and he fell heavily to his knees. As the ropes pulled his arms
up suddenly, stoical as he was, desperate not to show weakness as he
was, Buck cried out as a bolt of agonising pain shot through his injured
shoulder. Before his mouth was even closed it was hit; the unmistakable
coppery taste of blood filled his mouth, a whole new pain shot through
his jaw and his vision blurred. The voice of his tormentor was a distant
echo, he blinked, trying to make the room bright again, instead it just
got darker, the open lit doorway in front of him became just a fuzzy
"I said, who's your partner?" the man asked,
his face inches from Buck's, his warm breath was actually pleasant,
but Buck didn't answer, he was having enough trouble just thinking.
Pain, agonising screaming pain in his shoulder brought the world back
into some kind of focus. He pulled his head, which had started to sag
down on to his chest, up to see the man in front of him, his large hand
squeezing Buck's shoulder, making the unstable fracture move under his
"Bastard!" Buck ground out between gasps.
"I think we established you were the bastard, not
me. Now, I'm gonna ask one more time, who is your partner - you're a
fed, Mr Wilmington, feds travel in pairs, so who is it?"
Hell!" Buck managed to grind
out through gritted teeth as the broken bone ends once more moved against
His head dropped once more, blackness edged his vision
and this time nothing would bring him back.
The interrogator, know only as 'The Major' stepped back,
infuriated that his victim had escaped him by passing out. He backed
out of the room and closed the door.
"Well?" Greening asked, when he reached the
top of the steps that led down to the bomb shelter where Buck was being
held, under the main house.
"He's one tough guy, but if he really is one of
Larabee's team he would be. Move him to the bunker, we need to get more
Greening shuddered inwardly; he had seen the results
of The Major's, 'scientific' methods of questioning; not a pretty sight.