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Part One - Persona Non Grata by the Desperado's Daughter

DISCLAIMER: This is a work of fiction. I don't own the Magnificent Seven. They belong to Mirisch, MGM and Trilogy. If I've missed someone who has rights to these characters, it is an unintentional oversight. No money is exchanged and this is strictly for the enjoyment of fans.

PART ONE: Mail Call

He hadn't noticed it. In fact, if Josiah hadn't come in to help him with the mundane tasks at hand, he might not have seen it for a day or two. Ezra and Nathan were manning the phones. Chris Larabee was pacing his office like a caged cat. Mail was the last thing on his mind.

He was glad Vin was staying at the apartment with Buck. Chris had had about enough of Buck Wilmington. His oldest friend could be downright unreasonable when he was anxious.

And they were all anxious.

Chris had just gotten off the phone with an old friend of his--yet another ATF official. And the result was the same. Chris slammed the phone in the cradle.

"He doesn't give a shit about the kid," Chris barked. "As far as he's concerned, it never happened."

Chris was getting tired of this.

The first time he got the runaround, Chris had thought there was some kind of . . . incompetence in the ATF office. For two days, he had been unable to reach anyone in authority. And when he finally did, no one would help him. Not only that, but the more he talked to them, the more he sensed they were keeping him in the dark about something.

And he didn't like that a bit--not when one of his men was missing.

That had all started over a week ago. Nine days, actually.

JD Dunne had disappeared without a trace nine days ago.

Chris had been on the horn with the ATF brass ever since. He'd tried other federal agencies. He'd tried the police. He'd tried the military. Hell, he'd thought about calling the President. But as long as his own agency was stonewalling him, there was nothing he could do. His hands were tied.

He'd put his energy in hooking up with his old friend David Grimes. Of all times for Grimes to be out of the country . . .

Finally, just this morning, he'd gotten in touch with him. Surely David would help.

No such luck.

First thing in the morning, and Chris already had a headache.

What the hell was going on?

Chris' chest grew tight.

And where was JD?

Josiah sat on the edge of the desk, his brows furrowed. "Maybe we start calling in other favors."

"We shouldn't have to," Chris yelled. Suddenly, he slammed his hands on the desktop. "G**d****t! What do they want from me?!"

Josiah spoke evenly. "Royal wants us to take all the risks. Then he wants to deny any knowledge of it."

Josiah was right.

"The question is," Josiah continued. "What can they possibly hope to gain? What possible leverage can they get by leaving us out to dry?"

Chris listened, not looking at his friend, but still Chris listened. It occurred to him vaguely that his hands hurt . . . Josiah paused a moment. "The cancer must be way up in the system."

Chris studied his friend's eyes. "So there's nobody we can trust." Chris' voice sounded weak even to himself.

"That's where you're wrong." Josiah spoke steadily. "We can trust each other. We can trust the Judge."

"That's not enough."

"It's more than enough."

"Maybe if we knew where to start."

Chris looked at the floor and waited for Josiah to impart more wisdom, but instead there was silence.

Chris turned to look at him and found Josiah fingering the mail that had been delivered. Frowning, Josiah picked up a brown package and handed it to him slowly.

The lettering was crude . . . black magic marker. It said simply . . . "To Chris Larabee."

Josiah reached for the phone. "I'll call HazMat and the bomb squad," he said.

But Chris wasn't about to wait. He tore into the paper, and Josiah grabbed his arm fiercely.

"Don't." Josiah's command was short.

"Get your hands off me, Preacher," Chris said menacingly, but Josiah held on.

"If we blow ourselves up, JD doesn't have a chance. Just hang on a minute."

Chris glared at him, then nodded slowly. His eyes drifted to something out of place. His gaze trailed downward and he noticed the photograph lying face-down on the floor.

Feeling like he was moving in slow motion, Chris leaned over and picked up the picture, and he turned it over in his hand as he straightened up. His mouth formed the words, "oh God . . ." but no sound came.

Chris couldn't believe what he was seeing. The image was unbearable.

Josiah moved closer so that he could see as well.

Chris heard Josiah groan, then felt the strong hand on his shoulder and he welcomed the support. Chris was going to have to pull himself together if he was going to be able to lead his men. But right now, he could only stare at the picture

And for an instant, the mighty Chris Larabee felt like he was going to come unglued. When he tried to speak to Josiah, his voice felt . . . strangely scratchy.

"What are we gonna do?" Chris asked--more to himself than to Josiah.

But his friend answered. "We're gonna get the bomb squad up here to check out that package, and then we'll do whatever we have to to get JD back."

Chris squeezed his eyes closed and nodded. Then he turned to Josiah. "Let's go to work."


Buck Wilmington had slept in his jeans. He hadn't even meant to sleep. He wanted to stay awake. He wanted to be alert. He'd kept the police band radio on all night in case there was any word.

There wasn't.

Buck stood up slowly and stretched. His muscles ached. He hated that first moment every morning when he remembered that his partner was missing. He rubbed his face with his hand and became aware of the terrible weight in his chest. Buck thought for a moment that it would be easier just to stay awake so he wouldn't have to go through remembering every day.

Where are you, kid?

Buck sat on the side of his bed . . .

And prayed.

"Buck!" Vin came running in. "They got something. We gotta go."

Buck glanced up. "Thanks . . ." he murmured and he grabbed a shirt and pulled it over his head. He followed Vin to the door.

"What?" Buck grabbed the keys from beside the door.

"Nathan didn't say what. He just said to get there."

"Gimme your phone," Buck ordered as they ran to the car.

"Gimme the keys." Vin pulled the cell phone from his pocket, but held out his other hand.

"Damn it Vin, come on!"

Vin stood stock still and waited. "Shit!!" Buck cried and he thrust the keys in his friend's hand. Vin gave him the phone . . . then drove them to the office like a bat out of hell.


Once the bomb squad had checked the package and found a video tape instead of a bomb, Chris felt his jaw tighten. He was relieved that it wasn't a bomb, but he didn't want to see whatever was on that tape. He'd have to get over it, though.

It was likely to be the very thing that could help them find JD.


Ezra Standish was drinking coffee. He'd already finished the vanilla nut coffee he'd brewed at home, and now was drinking the last of the crappy office coffee. He was even making more. Any other day, Nathan would rib him about "slumming" at the coffee pot. But today, he wouldn't tease his friend. Ezra had to get through this any way he could, and aside from the caffeine high, crappy coffee wouldn't kill him.

Nathan hated this. Chris and Josiah knew something, but they weren't talking. That couldn't be good. But if JD were dead, they wouldn't make everybody wait, and they surely wouldn't be setting up the conference room with a VCR.

If they'd found him, they would be moving more quickly. As it was, they were short-tempered and nipping at everyone's heels. If anything, they seemed more frustrated.

Nathan wandered over to Ezra and together they watched Mr. Coffee sputter and spit. "Since when did you become a coffee drinker, Mr. Jackson?" Ezra asked.

"Who said I was becoming a coffee drinker?"

"Then am I to assume that you are merely a coffee voyeur?"


Chris closed the door to the conference room.

"We got a package this morning. There was a picture and a video." Chris sighed then spoke again in as unemotional a voice as he could. "Guys, we're going to be on our own on this one. Locals won't get involved because it's in the feds' jurisdiction and the feds are denying that JD or any of us for that matter is an agent."

"Did you reach your friend?" Vin asked.

Chris nodded. "It's locked up tighter than a drum. He won't help us because the orders to shut us down have come from the higher ups."

Buck was about to fly apart. "They can't . . ."

Chris cut him off. "It's done, Buck. It's up to us." Chris' face darkened more as he spoke. "We're gonna have to get past the emotions if we're gonna get JD out of this. I'm sending the photograph around. It'll piss you off, and we haven't seen the video yet. If it's anything like the picture, it's intended to be incindiary. But anger could get him killed. We have to work smarter, ok?"

Chris handed the photo to Buck, knowing what kind of volatile reaction he would get But Buck just drew his lips tight and studied the image.

He saw the bomb before anything else--the plastique strapped to the kid's torso, his dirty, bloody T-shirt being held up by someone's hand. Not JD's.

The room in the picture was dark. It was concrete--high, narrow windows. A warehouse maybe? JD was on his knees on the ground. Someone had a handfull of his hair and was pulling his head back roughly. a long black scarf covered his eyes, and some kind of wooden stick was in his mouth, gagging him. It was secured by string or something that held the ends in place and wound around behind his head . . .was that twine? The corner of his mouth was bleeding and he'd been beaten. His face was bruised and there was a gash across his forehead. . If that weren't horrible enough, one of his hands was tied to the wall way above his head and it clearly was twisted. His hand was mottled and his wrist bleeding. Buck squinted at the image of JD's arm and thought he could see track marks. The kid appeared to be unconscious. Buck couldn't let his rage take over. He had to find JD before that bomb went off, before his kidnappers shot him up with something that would kill him. No, Buck wasn't about to lose it. JD needed him. He needed all of them. Revenge would have to wait.

On to part two
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