The South Wind

Book one

by Beth AKA Midge

ATF Universe

Notes: This is the first story in a long series that I have planned. Just to warn you, I love the idea of conspiracies, however, they won't come into play until later on. I had to write this story to get you slightly introduced to some characters. Just to let you know, all the stories will tie in together. There is some language and violence, but hey, it's the Seven.

Thanks to Julie and KellyA for their help editing this story.

Chapter 1
Chris Larabee sat at his desk thinking about the group of men outside his office. For three months he'd been putting together a team of specialized ATF agents, all of who excelled in their specified field assignments. He fished through the files Judge Travis sent up for him to assess. The newly formed team was still short a member and it was turning out that the last member was becoming the most difficult to find. It didn't matter which branch of government Chris looked at, undercover agents seemed to be a different breed of cat, and that something the team leader was having a difficult time appreciating. He wanted someone with a military background like the majority of his team already. He also wanted someone who was going to blend equally within the group. Chris had enough to deal with, he didn't want someone coming in with a ‘mightier than thou' attitude. The more files and backgrounds he read the more disappointed he became. He only agreed to lead this group of men if he could hand pick his team. Judge Travis immediately agreed and the quest began. The team was warranted after a statewide police strike and the FBI's lack of manpower. Travis had taken the idea all the way to the state Supreme Court, who then ordered him to take control of the situation. Because of the lack of funding the Judge had to limit the team to seven members, which in the long run put more pressure on the leader of the team. Travis had no doubt it would be Chris Larabee. He had worked with the man before and knew he had an impeccable record as the leader of the Denver SWAT team, combined with his years in the military service, he was perfect for just such a position.

Chris could feel Vin Tanner's eyes on him before he looked up from his pile of paperwork, "What is it Vin?" He said throwing down another folder.

"Brandy just called. Say's she's sending someone up to see you," Vin leaned against the doorframe and watched his boss rub his eyes in acknowledgement.

"Did she say who it is?" The team leader stood up and stretched his back.

Vin cringed at the sound of Chris's back popping, "Said he was a Fed."

"Damn." The dark clad leader stepped out from behind his desk and headed for the door, "Go out and make sure everyone is a least looking like they're doing something important. The last thing we need is getting shut down even before we get started."

Vin slapped him on the arm and smiled, "I'll make sure everyone's on task, Pard."

Moments later the bell to the elevator doors rang and Chris's frown turned into a smile, "Harry?" he looked to the tall heavy set form that stepped into his team's office.

"Chris Larabee," Harry Kessler stuck his arm out and shook hands with his long time friend. His hair was gray and a bit to long, his mustache and beard still had the color of his youth entwined therein, crows feet and glasses now decorated his once lively eyes.

"What in the hell are you doing here?" Chris asked noticing four of his team members were watching in curiosity.

"Came to talk to you," Harry looked around the room at the different assortment of men. He smiled when he saw Buck come out of one of the rooms in the back and head over to greet him. "Buck," he clasped the tall mustached man's hand.

"Damn Harry, it's been a long time," Buck smiled and leaned against the desk sitting right behind him.

"Harry," Chris interrupted, wanting to get everyone introduced. "Vin Tanner, team sharpshooter, JD Dunne, electronics expert, Nathan Jackson, team medic, Josiah Sanchez, team strategist and psychologist, and of course you know Buck."

"Still a legalized Peeping Tom I suspect," Harry joked receiving a laugh from everyone in the room except Buck.

"Hey," Buck stood up, "I am a surveillance technician...who also happens to be a damn good explosives and arson specialist." He noticed JD looking around the room as if he were trying to locate someone, "What are you looking for kid?"

"Thought maybe you were trying to impress some chick," Buck slapped the kid in the shoulder before letting Chris get back to his conversation with Harry.

"Harry's an instructor for the FBI down at Quantico." Chris explained, "So what did you need to talk to me about?" He asked directing everyone into the conference room. He sat in a chair at the end of the long conference table and watched as his team followed suit. Harry sat next to him, not surprised at all by Larabee's forwardness or that of his team.

"I heard you were looking for an undercover man?" Harry looked at Chris putting his elbows on the table and folding his fingers together. His demeanor changed from that of friendly gestures to complete professionalism and that was something that didn't go unnoticed by the men sitting casually about the room.

"I am," Chris nodded as an aura of seriousness blanketed him, "Didn't know you were still working in the field, thought you were just teaching now."

"I'm not here on behalf of myself," Harry reached down and pulled out a thin file from his briefcase, "I want you to take a look at this kid." He threw the file down in front of the man he had once trained during his stay in the Navy.

"Why are you so interested in him?" Chris asked, before opening the file.

"Three years ago D.C. sent me in undercover on a kidnapping case. They told me another agent was working the case as well but they didn't give me any details. Sure enough, I come to find out that this kidnapping case is really an overseas slave market for young women. To make a long story short, a meet was set up to make a purchase, my cover gets blown and this kid ends up doing some fast-talking that turned a possibly deadly situation into a successful undercover assignment. I still can't figure out how he fingered me as a Fed." Harry paused and looked around the room.

"But that was three years ago, Harry. Why are you doing this so long after this happened, you owe him or something?" Buck asked wanting to get a look at the file Chris was now opening.

"Because, I owe him my life."

"This says Ezra Standish has been accused of being on the take?" Chris looked up hoping Harry would have a good explanation.

"No hard evidence came of the accusation."

"Do you think he's dirty?" Chris looked again at the file that lay before him.

"I wouldn't be here if I thought he was," Harry shook his head and sighed. "He's the best undercover agent I have ever worked with." He leaned back in his chair and rested his hands on his lap. "I think this kid found something out that he shouldn't have and someone wants him shut up, and by putting a label on him as a dirty cop..." Harry paused shrugging his shoulders, "Who's going to question it." Harry looked to Chris knowing he would understand, "He's received death threats and it still won't stop him. The kid's to damn stubborn to quit."

"He shouldn't have to...if he didn't do it," Vin piped in, his interest now spiked.

"Doesn't matter, every time he goes under review, Internal Affairs is on his ass and no matter how successful the assignment is...he gets reprimanded." Harry ran his fingers threw his gray hair and sighed, "If he doesn't get out of there someone on the inside is going to take him out and nobody's gonna care who does it. We all like to see dirty cops get their just rewards, but this kid isn't dirty."

"Where's the rest of his file?" Chris moved the file across the table for Josiah to read.

"That's it," Harry laughed outright, "His past is about as clear as mud."

"You'd think the FBI would have more information on ‘im than this," Josiah briefly looked through the file with JD reading over his shoulder. There was nothing more that a stat sheet, case list, copy of his photo identification, and his list of reprimands.

"They did," Harry chuckled, "Seems someone hacked into his personnel files and eliminated what he didn't want read, including medical records, psychology profiles, and evaluations."

"Standish?" JD asked, a newfound respect for the man they were speaking of.

"That would be my guess, but I doubt you'll ever find out for sure."

"He sounds like a loose cannon," Chris looked hard at his friend.

"Most undercover agents are...the good ones at least," Harry smiled knowingly.

Chris smiled at Harry's underlying joke and scooted his chair back away from the table, "I need more to go on Harry," he sighed. "I've spent the last three months looking at files for undercover agents. I need more than a thin file and one recommendation. What's your personal feeling on this guy?"

Harry paused before answering, "I see, maybe, forty agents a year come through my classroom. Maybe, just maybe, one of them will have what it takes to work undercover." He looked at the men sitting silently around the table, "Undercover work is a hard life, more times than not you loose, maybe not the case but a portion of yourself." Chris nodded his head trying to understand. He knew Harry was speaking the truth because he'd lived it. "This kid could teach me a few things about the job. He's determined, aggressive, and smart when it comes to getting whatever evidence is needed." Harry leaned forward and rested his hands on the table, "He's also a loner, stubborn, defiant, aversive, and from what I've heard, he'll make you want to ring his bloody neck. But he's good." He leaned back and took a deep breath, "You give him half a chance and he'll break his back for you. Hell, look what he's done already and he's never been given anything but shit."

Chris seemed to take into consideration what Harry had said, "Never been to Atlanta," he rubbed the back of his head, "Guess now's as good a time as any to visit." Chris smiled; it had been a long time since Harry had fought so hard for anything.

"He's a true Southerner, the only way he'll leave Atlanta is if he's transferred. When you see him don't tell him it was me that told you about him." Harry stood up and grabbed his briefcase, "If he thinks a fellow agent was behind this..."

"I won't say a word."

"Eric Anderson is an old acquaintance of mine and he's Standish's superior. He'll be the one to talk to."

"I'll have a talk with him." Both men headed for the elevator closely followed by the rest of Chris's team.

"Talk...Chris, that's the operative word. I know you...don't go in there and make enemies before you have a chance to negotiate."

Chris nodded his head in agreement, "You want me to give you a call when I make my decision?"

"Word gets around, and if Standish is involved, word gets around even faster." Harry pushed the elevator door button, "Thanks for doing this Chris." He paused wondering if he was doing the right thing by bringing Standish into this situation. Nodding a silent ‘yes' to himself he stepped into the elevator.

"Just one thing," Chris watched as Harry turned to face him in the elevator. "You're were the one who brought him to my attention and remember Harry," Chris smiled, "Payback's a bitch." The elevator doors closed and he turned back around to face his team.

"So what are you going to do?" JD asked enthusiastically, slipping into a chair.

"Vin and I are flying to Atlanta. Josiah you're in charge while I'm gone. JD see what you can find out about Standish, go through whatever channels you have to." Chris headed quickly to his office and made a phone call to the airline the agency used most often and made two round trip reservations for Atlanta.

Chapter 2

Chris and Vin stepped into the Atlanta Federal Building and headed to the front desk. They sensed the authoritative and professional atmosphere within the prestigious walls. Federal agents walked with purpose through the corridors, their heels clicking in measured strides on the highly polished floor. Vin unconsciously pulled his hands into fists when he noticed the questionable looks being directed his way.

"I'm Chris Larabee, with Vin Tanner. We have an appointment with Eric Anderson at 10:00." The tall blonde flashed his badge and nudged Vin to do the same.

The unimpressed attendant stared blankly at the computer screen looking for the conformation of the appointment. "Fourth floor Room 415. Attach these visitor passes to your shirts and make sure they are visible at all times." The dark haired desk clerk passed the two agents the Visitor ID's and pointed toward the elevator doors on the far side of the room.

"Friendly place," Vin noted, fixing the pass to his shirt.

"Should make for an interesting day," Chris said pressing the 4th Floor button when he stepped inside the elevator.

+ + + + + + +

Eric Anderson sat behind his desk checking his usual paperwork. He slammed the phone down after the front desk informed him that his ‘10:00 appointment' was heading up to see him. He looked casually around his office wondering what two Denver ATF agents would want to speak to him about. Unconsciously the supervising agent ran a slender hand over his slowly graying hair and sighed, if he pushed through the meeting he could get to an early lunch.

"Come in," Anderson yelled, hearing the knock at his door. He got to his feet when the two ATF agents entered his office. Eric chuckled to himself noting their casual attire. The one in black must be colorblind while the other one was trying to live out his fantasy of the Old West. But in an attempt to remain professional, Eric Anderson stuck his hand out and introduced himself and half listened as they introduced themselves to him. "So, Mr. Larabee, Mr. Tanner, what can I do for you?" Motioning for them to sit down in the chairs across from his desk.

"I'm interested in transferring one of your agents to my team." Chris eyed the smug agent sitting across from him, while finding it increasingly difficult to remember Harry's words of warning.

"This is the FBI Mr. Larabee, not the ATF. Surely you have agents within your own agency you can choose from," Anderson leaned back in his chair and stared at the two agents.

"I understand that there is an Agent Ezra Standish under your division?" Chris got right to the point not wanting to deal with this agent's obvious hesitation to work with the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms.

"Standish?" Anderson almost choked, "You flew all the way from Denver to recruit a dirty cop. I would have thought you boys were smarter than that."

"Do you have proof he's dirty?" Vin asked, knowing it was against FBI policy to down talk fellow agents before any one outside of FBI jurisdiction.

"I don't need any," was the quick defensive reply.

Chris leaned forward and rested his arms on his knees, "I understand Standish is a damn good undercover agent and I need him to complete my team."

"Fine..." Anderson snapped. Anderson didn't have anything to loose by transferring Standish. In fact, the more he thought about it, he liked the idea of getting the agent out of his hair. "Just so you know... Standish has no respect for authority and disregards orders. He's a maverick in every sense of the word, and he's dirty. You want him on your team you can have him on your team. However...He's still an FBI agent. I'll only sign joint transfer papers."

Chris raised his eyebrows in speculation, "Joint transfer papers?"

"I don't like Standish, never have, never will, but he's a good undercover agent and I want him to remain available at all times."

"Seems a bit unorthodox," Chris looked to Vin who only shrugged his shoulders.

"This is the FBI, Mr. Larabee, as long as it's on paper I can pretty much do anything I deem appropriate."

Chris rolled his eyes and leaned back in his chair, "I want to meet with him first before I make up my mind." He played the only angle he could to gain back control of the situation.

"Agreed," Anderson stood up and headed for the door...expecting Chris and Vin to follow.

+ + + + + + +

The elevator ride to the basement was held in silence and Chris shook his head in disbelief. He hadn't really known what to expect when they arrived but he didn't think Anderson would pull a stunt like ‘joint transfer papers'. He could tell Vin was thinking the same thing and a spark of understanding flashed between the two agents. The elevator doors opened to what was obviously the Research Department. Anderson quickly stepped out and headed for a small office tucked away in the corner past the rows of files and storage boxes. Chris and Vin followed looking curiously at the activity around them.

Anderson entered the small office without knocking and stopped in front of a paper and file covered table. The brown haired green eyed agent hardly took time to look up from his hot cup of coffee and pile of black and white photographs. He had a feeling he knew what was coming, his usual reprimand, but it was the two men following his usually abrasive director that captured his attention. "Standish."

The agent in question looked at Anderson showing no emotion toward the obviously agitated man standing before him. He put his coffee cup down on the table and looked his director in the eye, "Is there a problem?"

Anderson looked around the room and rubbed his forehead in frustration, "I thought I told you not to go digging through the Harrison files."

"You did," Ezra nodded and threw the pencil he had tucked in his hand down on the table then with his ‘poker face' firmly in place he folded his fingers together and looked directly at his boss not offering to further explain his actions.

"Then why is his file out?" Anderson asked more annoyed, ignoring the two men standing silently behind him.

"As per your request, sir, it is my understanding that my next undercover assignment is to associate with Pat Guarde. Being that I always research subjects that I'm about to associate with, I felt it was in my best interest to do so in this case as well." Ezra leaned back in his chair and looked at his boss in contempt. "Harrison is Guarde's former supplier, if your teams did their research right the first time I wouldn't be down here now," Vin tried to hide the smile that flashed across his face and received a reinforcing jab in the ribs from Chris.

"My research team did a fine job," Anderson snapped. From behind him Chris cleared his throat, forcing Eric to remember the two men standing behind him.

"I don't like surprises...particularly when it's my ass on the line." Ezra looked passed Anderson and at the tall blonde who wore nothing but black and his companion.

Anderson smiled, looking at Chris as he did so. "Larabee," Anderson turned slightly giving the two agents access to the room, "Ezra Standish...your new undercover agent." Chris opened his mouth to say something but stopped himself. Anderson glanced back at Ezra with anger burning in his eyes. "Standish, you will be in my office within the hour to sign your transfer papers. You are leaving today for Denver." With that said Anderson stormed out of the office and headed back for the elevators.

+ + + + + + +

Vin studied the man still sitting at the small table surprised that he didn't so much as flinch when he received the news of his transfer, "I'm Vin Tanner." Vin stuck his hand out for Ezra to shake, which he did without hesitation. The sharpshooter then took a step back not wanting to overstep his bounds with Chris.

"Anderson's not particularly fond of you," Chris stated.

"You have an uncanny knack for perception, Mr. Larabee."

Vin once again tried to stifle the smile that came to his face, but received a glare from Chris this time.

"I've been putting together an ATF team in Denver over the past few months and I need an undercover agent to complete it. I've read your record, it's quite impressive." Chris continued.

"So is my list of reprimands." Ezra added.

"I'm only interested in the work you've done and the work you'll be doing," Chris looked at Ezra trying to read his emotions but failing miserably. "There are four other members to my team in Denver, each one trained in a specific field."

"No offense, Mr. Larabee, but it's my understanding that Denver doesn't have an ATF field office. Matter of fact, I believe Kansas City is the closest one available in your area."

Chris bowed his head and smiled, the agent sitting before him knew what he was talking about. "You're right...Kansas City is the closet field office. However, District Judge Orin Travis has authorized me to put this team together. It's the only one like it in the country. We work side by side with local law enforcement, the FBI, as well as public relations."

"And this is why you need an undercover agent?" Ezra asked closing the file he had been reading before being so rudely interrupted.

"You're good at what you do and I need experience on this team. According to what I've read about you, you qualify. Are you interested?"

Ezra paused before answering. He didn't want to blow his chance at continuing in the only job he ever cared about. "Yes, I'm interested."

"I'll expect you in Denver ten days from today. If you have any questions you can call this number." Chris handed him his business card, "Our offices are on the sixth floor of the Federal Building Downtown District."

"Is there anything else?" Ezra took the card.

Chris shook his head, "See you in ten day's." He stuck his hand out and shook his new undercover agent's hand.

"I'll be there," Ezra smiled, but it didn't reach his eyes. He watched them head out and the undercover agent rubbed his head in frustration. "Transferred," He shook his head in disgust knowing this day had been coming...he just hadn't planned on it being today.

+ + + + + + +

Chris pushed the up button in the elevator and watched as the doors closed. He could tell Tanner wanted to say something but was keeping his mouth shut, "What's on your mind?"

Vin shrugged his shoulders, "What if he's everything they say he is?"

"If I listened to what everyone else said before making up my own damn mind I'd still be looking for a sharpshooter," Chris chuckled at Vin's reaction. "I'll give him the same chance I gave the rest of you, which is probably more than he's gotten here."

"Good," Vin grinned from ear to ear.


"I like him."

"Good," Chris smiled, "Cuz you'll be sharing an office with him." The elevator doors opened and Chris stepped out not giving Tanner a chance to object. He liked Standish and he could tell Vin did as well. Chris trusted the sharpshooter's instincts. He could tell the undercover agent hid behind a well-placed wall that was void of emotion. Something he probably needed in order to survive on the inside.

+ + + + + + +

Ezra knocked on Eric Anderson's door and waited for the inviting words to come in. Eric sat behind his large wood desk and without looking up tossed Standish's transfer papers to him. "Good luck in Denver Standish," Anderson smiled knowing how truly fond of the Southern U.S. Ezra was.

"Perhaps the atmosphere in Denver will be as cold as it is here," Ezra looked meaningfully at Anderson knowing the man would guess what it was he was referring to. Standish's time in Atlanta had been anything but warm. The undercover agent finishing signing the paperwork and tossed it back to Anderson.

"Just watch your back in Denver Standish, wouldn't want some hard evidence coming to light proving you're dirty. Who knows what your new team might do to you once they get to know you."

"So I gather I can count on that great reference from you," Ezra smiled a cocky grin, which seemed to aggravate Anderson even more.

"You will go down, I don't know how, but you will."

Ezra shook his head and headed out of the office. He'd taken the time to empty his desk, which consisted of a few files and nothing more then make some phone calls. He figured he'd make them on the government's dime. Plane reservations, moving arrangements, and utilities were also taken care of. He just needed to get to his apartment and pack his suitcase and few personal belongings then he was on his way to Denver. Ezra ran his fingers through his hair when he entered the parking garage and realized that once again, his life had changed without warning.


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